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Full text of "THACKERAY"

I 



103693 



THACKERAY 



MACMILLAN AND CO., LIMITED 

LONDON BOMBAY CALCUTTA MADRAS 
MELBOURNE 

THE MACMILLAN COMPANY 

NEW YORK * BOSTON * CHICAGO 
DALLAS SAN FRANCISCO 

THE MACMILLAN CO, OF CANADA, LTD. 

TORONTO 



ENGLISH &EN OF -LETTERS 



THACKERAY 



BY 



ANTHONY TROLLOPE 



MACMILLAN AND CO., LIMITED 

ST. MARTIN'S STREET, LONDON 

1909 



RICHARD CLAY AND SONS, LIMITKD, 

BREAD STREET HILL, E.C., AKI> 

BUNGAY, SUFFOLK. 

first Edition, 1879. 

^ 1880, 1882, i8S6, 1887, 1892, 1895, 1900, IQOS 
JLibrttiy JSt&fion, 1902, 1906. 
Pocket Jdit*on,i i99- 



CONTENTS. 



CHAPTER I. 

PASS 

BIOGRAPHICAL 1 



CHAPTER II. 
FRASER'S MAGAZINE AND PONCH 62 

CHAPTER III. 
VANITY PAIR 90 

CHAPTER IV. 
PENDENNIS AND THE NEWCOMES 103 

, CHAPTER V. 
ESMOND AND THE VIRGINIANS 122 

CHAPTER VI. 
THACKERAY'S BURLESQUES 139 



vi CONTENTS. 

CHAPTER TIL 

PAGB 

THACKERAY'S LECTURES 154 

CHAPTER VIII. 
THACKERAT'S BALLADS 168 

CHAPTER IX. 
THACKERAY'S STYLE AND MANNER OF WORK . . . 184 



THACKERAY. 

CHAPTER T. 

BIOGRAPHICAL. 

IN the foregoing volumes of this series of English Men 
of Letters, and in other works of a similar nature which 
have appeared lately as to the Ancient Classics and 
Foreign Classics, biography has naturally been, if not the 
leading, at any rate a considerable element. The desire 
is common to all readers to know not only what a great 
writer has written, but also of what nature has been the 
man who has produced such great work. As to all the 
authors taken in hand before, there has been extant some 
written record of the man's life. Biographical details 
have been more or less known to the world, so that s 
whether of a Cicero, or of a Goethe, or of our own 
Johnson, there has been a story to tell. Of Thackeray 
no life has been written; and though they who knew 
him, and possibly many who did not, are conversant 
with anecdotes of the man, who was one so well known 
in society as to have created many anecdotes, yet there 
has been no memoir of his life sufficient to supply the 
wants of even so small a work as this purports to be* 



2 THACKERAY. [CHAP. 

For this the reason may simply be told. Thackeray, not 
long before his death, had had his taste offended by some 
fulsome biography. Paragraphs, of which the eulogy 
seemed to have been the produce rather of personal love 
than of inquiry or judgment, disgusted him, and he 
begged of his girls that when he should have gone 
there should nothing of the sort be done with his 
name. 

'We can imagine how his mind had worked, how he 
had declared to himself that, as by those loving hands 
into which his letters, his notes, his little details, his 
literary remains, as such documents used to be called, 
might naturally fall, truth of his foibles and of his short- 
comings could not be told, so should not his praises be 
written, or that flattering portrait be limned which 
"biographers are wont to produce. Acting upon these 
instructions, his daughters, while there were two living, 
and since that the one surviving, have carried out the 
order which has appeared to them to be sacred. Such 
being the case, it certainly is not my purpose now to write 
what may be called a life of Thackeray. In this pre- 
liminary chapter I will give such incidents and anecdotes 
of his life as will tell the reader perhaps all about him 
that a reader is entitled to ask. I will tell how he 
became an author, and will say hoxv first he worked and 
struggled, and then how he worked and prospered, and 
became a household word in English literature ; how, 
in this way, he passed through that course of mingled 
failure and success which, though the literary aspirant 
may suffer, is probably better both for the writer and for 
the writings than unclouded early glory. The suffering 
no doubt is acute, and a touch of melancholy, perhaps of 
indignation, may be given to words which have 



f.J BIOGRAPHICAL. S 

written while the heart has been too full of its own 
wrongs; but this is better than the continued note of 
triumph which is still heard in the final voices of the 
spoilt child of literature, even when they are losing their 
music. Then I will tell how Thackeray died, eany 
indeed, but still having done a good life's work. Some- 
thing of his nianner, something of his appearance I 
can say, something perhaps of his condition of mind ; 
because for some few years he was known to nie. 
But of the continual intercourse of himself with the 
world, and of himself with his own works, I can tell 
little, because no record of his life has been made 
public. 

William Makepeace Thackeray was born at Calcutta., 
on July 18, 1811. His father was Richmond Thackeray, 
son of "W. M. Thackeray of Hadley, near Barnet, in 
Middlesex. A relation of his, of the same name, a 
Eev. Mr. Thackeray, I knew well as rector of Hadley, 
many years afterwards. Him I believe to have been 
a second cousin of our Thackeray, but I think they 
had never met each other. Another cousin was Provost 
of Kings at Cambridge, fifty years ago, as Cambridge 
men will remember. Clergymen of the family have been 
numerous in England during the century, and there was 
one, a Rev. Elias Thackeray, whom I also knew in my 
youth, a dignitary, if I remember right, in the diocese of 
MeatL The Thackerays seem to have affected the Church ; 
but such was not at any period of his life the bias of our 
novelist's mind. 

His father and grandfather were Indian civil servants. 
His mother was Anne Becher, whose father was also in 
the Company's service. She married early in India, and 
wai only nineteen when *iaer son was boni. She was left 



4 THACKEKAY. [CHAP. 

a widow in 1816, with only one child, and was married a 
few years afterwards to Major Henry Carmichael Smyth, 
with whom Thackeray lived on terms of affectionate inter- 
course till the major died. All who knew William 
Makepeace remember his mother well, a handsome, spare, 
gray-haired lady, whom Thackeray treated with a courtly 
deference as well as constant affection. There was, 
however, something of discrepancy between them as to 
matters of religion. Mrs. Carmichael Smyth was disposed 
to the somewhat austere observance of the evangelical 
section of the Church. Such, certainly, never became 
the case with her son. There was disagreement on the 
subject, and probably unhappiness at intervals, but never, 
I think, quarrelling. Thackeray's house was his mother's 
home whenever she pleased it, and the home also of his 
stepfather. 

He was brought a child from India, and was sent 
early to the Charter House. Of his life and doings there 
his friend and schoolfellow George Yenables writes to me 
as follows ; 

"My recollection of him, though fresh enough, does 
not furnish much material for biography. He came to 
school young, -a pretty, gentle, and rather timid boy. I 
think his experience there was not generally pleasant. 
Though he had afterwards a scholarlike knowledge of Latin, 
he did not attain distinction in the school; and I should 
think that the character of the head-master, Dr. Eussell, 
which w,as vigorous, unsympathetic, and stern, though 
not severe, was uncongenial to his own. With the boys 
who knew him, Thackeray was popular but he had no 
skill in games, and, I think, no taste for them . . , . 
Be was already known by his faculty of making verses,. 



L] BIOGRAPHICAL. 5 

chiefly parodies. I only remember one line of one parody 
on a poem of L. E. L. J s, about * Violets, dark blue violets ;* 
Thackeray's version was * Cabbages, bright green cabbages/ 
and we thought it very witty. He took part in a scheme, 
which came to nothing, for a school magazine, and he 
wrote verses for it, of which I only remember that they 
were good of their kind. When I knew him better, in 
later years, I thought I could recognise the sensitive nature 
which he had as a boy .... His change of retrospective 
feeling about his school days was very characteristic. In 
his earlier books he always spoke of the Charter House 
as Slaughter House and Smithtield. As he became famous 
and prosperous his memory softened, and Slaughter House 
was changed into Grey Friars where Colonel Xewcome 
ended his life." 

In February, 1829, when he was not as yet eighteen, 
Thackeray went up to Trinity College, Cambridge, and 
was, I think, removed in 1830. It may be presumed, 
therefore, that his studies there were not very serviceable to 
him. There are few, if any, records left of his doings at 
the university, unless it be the fact that he did there 
commence the literary work of his life. The line about 
the cabbages, and the scheme of the school magazine, can 
hardly be said to have amounted even to a commencement. 
In 1829 a little periodical was brought out at Cambridge, 
called The Snob, with an assurance on the title that it 
was not conducted by members of the university. It is 
presumed that Thackeray took a hand in editing this. 
He certainly wrote, and published in the little paper, 
some burlesque lines on the subject which was given 
for the Chancellor's prize poem of the year. This was 
Timbuctoo, and Tennyson was the victor on the occasion. 



^ TEACKEEAY. [CHAP, 

There is ; some good fun in the four first and four last 
lines of Thackeray's production. 

In Africa, a quarter of the world, 

Hen's skins are black; their hair is crisped and curled; 

And somewhere there, unknown to public view 

A mighty city lies, called Timbuctoo. 

* * * 

I see her tribes the hill of glory mount, 
And sell thoir sugars on their own account ; 
While round her throne the prostrate nations come, 
Sue for her rice, and barter for her rum. 

I cannot find in The Snob internal evidence of much 
literary merit beyond , this. But then how many great 
writers have there been from whose early lucubrations no 
future literary excellence could be prognosticated ? 

There is something at any rate in the name of the pub- 
lication which tells of work that did come. Thackeray's 
mind was at all times peculiarly exercised with a sense 
of snobbishness. His appreciation of the vice grew ab- 
normally, so that at last he had a morbid horror of a snob 
a morbid fear lest this or the other man should turn 
snob on his hands. It is probable that the idea was taken 
from the early Snob at Cambridge, either from his OWD 
participation in the work or from his remembrance of it. 
TJie Snob lived, I think, but nine weeks, and was followed 
at an interval, in 1830, by The Gownsman, which lived to 
the seventeenth number, and at the opening of which 
Thackeray- no doubt had a hand. It professed to be a 
continuation of The Snob. It contains a dedication to all 
proctors, which I should not be sorry to attribute to him. 
" To all Proctors, past, present, and future 

1 Whose taste it is our privilege to follow, 
Whose virtue it is our duty to imitate, " 

Whose presence it is our interest to avoid.? 

There is, however, nothing beyond fancy to induce me to 



i-l BIOGRAPHICAL. ? 

believe that Thackeray was the author of the dedication, 
and I do not know that there is any evidence to show 
that he was connected with The Snob beyond the writing 
of Tinibudoo* 

In 1830 he left Cambridge, and went to Weimar either 
in that year or in 1831. Between Weimar and Paris he 
spent some portion of his earlier years, while his family, 
his mother, that is, and his stepfather, were living in 
Devonshire. It was then the purport of his life to become 
an artist, and he studied drawing at Paris, affecting 
especially Bonnington, the young English artist who 
had himself painted at Paris and who had died in 1828. 
He never learned to draw, perhaps never could have 
learned. That he was idle, and did not do his best, we 
may take for granted. He was always idle, and only on 
Some occasions, when the spirit moved him thoroughly, 
did he do his best even in after life. But with drawing, 
or rather without it, he did wonderfully well even 
when he did his worst. He did illustrate his own 
books, and everyone knows how incorrect were his 
delineations. But as illustrations they were excellent. 
How often have I wished that characters of my owti 
creating might be sketched as faultily, if with the 
same appreciation of the intended purpose. Let anyone 
look at the " plates," as they are called in Vanity Fair, 
and compare each with the scenes and the characters 
intended to be displayed, and there see whether the artist, 
if we may call him so, has not managed to convey in 
the picture the exact feeling which he has described in 
the text. I have a little sketch of his, in which a cannon- 
ball is supposed to have just carried off the head of an 
aide-de-camp, messenger I had perhaps better say, lest I 
might affront military feelings, who is kneeling on the 
field of battle and delivering a despatch to Marlboiough 



8 THACKERAY. [CHAP. 

on horseback. The graceful ease with which the duke 
receives the message though the messenger's head be gone, 
and the soldier-like precision with which the headless hero 
finishes his last effort of military obedience, may not have 
been portrayed with well-drawn figures, but no finished 
illustration ever told its story better. Dickens has in- 
formed us that he first met Thackeray in 1835, on which 
occasion the young artist aspirant, looking no doubt 
after profitable employment, "proposed to become the 
illustrator of my earliest book." It is singular that 
such should have been the first interview between the 
two great novelists. We may presume that the offer was 
rejected. 

In 1832, Thackeray came of age, and inherited his 
fortune, as to which various stories have been told. It 
seems to have amounted to about five hundred a year, and 
to have passed through his hands in a year or two, 
interest and principal It has been told of him that it 
was all taken away from him at cards, but such was not 
the truth. Some went in an Indian bank in which he 
invested it. A portion was lost at cards. But with 
some of it, the larger part as I think, he endeavoured, 
in concert with his stepfather, to float a newspaper, which 
failed. There seem to have been two newspapers in 
which he was so concerned, The National Standard and 
Tlie Constitutional. On the latter he was engaged with 
his stepfather, and in carrying that on he lost the last 
of his money. TJie National Standard had been 
running for some weeks when Thackeray joined it, and 
lost his money in it. It ran only for little more than 
twelve months, and then, the money having gone, the 
periodical came to an end. I know no road to fortune 
more tempting to a young man, or one that with more 
certainty leads to ruin. Thackeray, who in a way more or 



i.] BIQGBAPHICAI/. 9 

less correct, often refers 'in his writings, if not to the 
incidents, at any rate to the remembrances of his own life, 
tells us much of the story of this newspaper in Lovel the 
Widower. " They are welcome/' says the bachelor, " to 
make merry at my charges in respect of a certain bargain 
which I made on coming to London, and in which, had I 
been Moses Primrose purchasing green spectacles, I could 
scarcely have been more taken in. My Jenkinson was 
an old college acquaintance, whom I was idiot enough to 
imagine a respectable man. The fellow had a very smooth 
tongue and sleek sanctified exterior. He was rather a 
popular preacher, and used to cry a good deal in the 
pulpit. He and a queer wine merchant and bill dis- 
counter, Sherrick by name, had somehow got possession 
of that neat little literary paper, TJie Museum, which per- 
haps you remember, and this eligible literary property my 
friend Honeyman, with his wheedling tongue, induced 
me to purchase." Here is the history of Thackeray's money, 
told by himself plainly enough, but with no intention on 
his part of narrating an incident in his own life to the 
public. But the drollery of the circumstances, his own 
mingled folly and young ambition, struck him as being 
worth narration, and the more forcibly as he remembered 
all the ins and outs of his own reflections at the time, 
how he had meant to enchant the world, and make his 
fortune. There -was literary capital in it of which he 
could make use after so many years. Then he tells us 
of this ambition, and of the folly of it ; and at the same 
time puts forward the excuses to be made for it. "I 
daresay I gave myself airs as editor of that confounded 
Museum, and proposed to educate the public taste, to 
diffuse morality and sound literature throughout the 
nation, and to pocket a liberal salary in return for my 
services, I daresay I printed my own sonnets, my own 



10 THICKER AY. [CHAP. 

tragedy, my own verses .... I daresay I wrote satirical 
articles .... I daresay I made a gaby of myself to the 
world. Pray, my good friend, hast them never done 
likewise? If thou hast never been a fool/ be sure thou 
wilt never be a wise man." Thackeray was quite aware 
of -his early weaknesses, and in the maturity of life knew 
well that he had not been precociously wise. He delighted 
so to tell his friends, and he delighted also to tell the 
public, not meaning that any but an inner circle should 
know that he was speaking of himself. . Bufc the story 
now is plain to all who can read. 1 

It was thus that he lost his money; and then, not 
having prospered very well with his drawing lessons in 
Paris or elsewhere, he was fain to take up literature as 
a profession. It is a business which has its allurements. 
It requires no capital, no special education, no training, 
and may be taken up at any time without a moment's 
delay. If a man can command a table, a chair, pen, 
paper, and ink, he can commence his trade as literary 
man. It is thus that aspirants generally do commence 
it. A man may or may not have another employment 
to back him, or means of his own ; or, as was the case 
with Thackeray, when, after his first misadventure, he had 
to look about him for the means of living, he may 
have nothing but his intellect and his friends. But the 
idea comes to the man that as he has the pen and ink- 

1 The report that he had lost all liis money and was going to 
live by painting in Paris, was still prevalent in London in 1836. 
Macready, on the 27th April of that year, says in his Diary ; "At 
Garrick Club, where I dined and saw the papers. Met Thackeray, 
who has spent all his fortune, and is now about to settle in Paris, 
I believe as an artist." But at this time he was. in truth, fumin^ 
to literature as a profession. 



i.]* ' BIOGRAPHICAL. 11 

and time on his hand, why should he not write and make 
money ? 

It is an idea that conies to very many men and women, 
old as well as young, to many thousands who at last are 
crushed by it, of whom the world knows nothing. A 
man can make the attempt though he has not a coat fit 
to go out into the street with j or a woman, though she 
be almost in rags. There is no apprenticeship wanted. 
Indeed there is no room for such apprenticeship. It is 
an art which no one teaches ; there is no professor who> 
in a dozen lessons, even pretends to show the aspirant 
how to write a book or an article. If you would be a 
watchmaker, you must learn; or a lawyer, a cook, or 
even a housemaid. Before you can clean a horse you 
must go into the stable, and begin at the beginning. 
Even the cab-driving tiro must sit for awhile on the 
box, and learn something of the streets, before he can 
ply for a fare. But the literary beginner rushes at once 
at the top rung of his ladder ; as though a youth, having 
made up his mind to be a clergyman, should" demand, 
without preliminary steps, to be appointed Bishop of 
London. That he should be able to read and write is 
presumed, and that only. So much may be presumed of 
everyone, and nothing more is wanted. 

In truth nothing more is wanted, except those inner 
lights as to which , so many men live and die without 
having learned' whether they possess them or not. Prac- 
tice, industry, study of literature,- cultivation of taste, and 
the rest, will of course lend their aid, will probably be 
necessary before high, excellence is attained. But the 
instances are not to seek, are at the fingers of us all, 
in which the first uninstructed effort has succeeded, 
A .boy; . almost, or -perhaps an old woman, has sat down 



12 THACKERAY. [CHAP, 

and the book has come, and the world has read it, and 
the booksellers have been civil and have written their 
cheques. "When all trades, all professions, all seats at 
offices, all employments at which a crust can be earned, 
are so crowded that a young man knows not where to 
look for the means of livelihood, is there not an attrac- 
tion in this which to the self-confident must be almost 
invincible ? The booksellers are courteous and write 
their cheques, but that is not half the whole 1 Monstrari 
digito ! That is obtained. The happy aspirant is written 
of in newspapers, or, perhaps, better still, he writes of 
others. When the barrister of forty-five has hardly got a 
name beyond Chancery Lane, this glorious young scribe, 
with the first down on his lips, has printed his novel and 
been talked about. 

The temptation is irresistible, and thousands fall into 
it. How is a man to know that he is not the lucky one 
or the gifted one? There is the table and there the pen 
and ink. Among the unfortunate he who fails altogether 
and from the first start is npt the most unfortunate. A 
short period of life is wasted, and a sharp pang is endured. 
Then the disappointed one is relegated to the condition 
of life which he would otherwise have filled a little earlier. 
He has been wounded, but not killed, or even maimed. 
But he who has a little success, who succeeds in earning a 
few halcyon, but, ah ! so dangerous guineas, is drawn into 
a trade from which he will hardly escape till he be 
driven from it, if he come out alive, by sheer hunger. 
He hangs on till the guineas become crowns and shillings, 
till some sad record of his life, made when he applies 
for charity, declares that he has worked hard for the last 
year or two and has earned less than a policeman in the 
streets or a porter at a railway. It is to that that he is 



I.] BIOGRAPHICAL. 13 

brought by applying himself to a business which requires 
only a table and chair, with pen, ink, and paper ! It is to 
that which he is brought by venturing to believe that he 
has been gifted with powers of imagination, creation, and 
expression. 

The young man who makes the attempt knows that 
he must run the chance. He is well aware that nine 
must fail where one will make his running good. So 
much as that does reach his ears, and recommends itself 
to his common sense. But why should it not be he as 
well as another ? There is always some lucky one winning 
the prize. And this prize when it has been won is so 
well worth the winning ! He can endure starvation, so 
he tells himself, as well as another. He will try. But 
yet he knows that he has but one chance out of ten in 
his favour, and it is only in his happier moments that 
he flatters himself that that remains to him. Then there 
falls upon him, in the midst of that labour which for its 
success especially requires that a man's heart shall be 
light, and that he be always at his best, doubt and 
despair. If there be no chance, of what use is his 
labour ? 

Were it not better done as others use, 
To sport with Amaryllis in the shade, 

and amuse himself after that fashion 1 ? Thus the very 
industry which alone could give him a chance is discarded. 
It is so that the young man feels who, with some slight 
belief in himself and with many doubts, sits down to 
iommence the literary labour by which he hopes to live. 

So it was, no doubt, with Thackeray. Such were his 
hopes and his fears \ with a resolution of which we can. 
well understand that it -should have waned at -times, of 
yarning his bread, if he did not make his fortune, in ^he 



14 THACKERAY. [CHAJ>. 

world of literature. One has not to look far for evidence of 
the condition I have described, that it was so, Amaryllis 
and all. -How or when he made his very first attempt 
in London, I have not learned ; "but he had not. probably 
spent his money without forming " press " acquaintances, 
and had thus found an aperture for the thin end of the 
wedge. He 'wrote for The Constitutional) of which he was 
part proprietor, beginning his work for that paper as a 
correspondent from Paris. For a while he was connected 
with The Times newspaper, though his work there did not 
I think amount to much. His first regular employment 
was on Fraser's Magazine, when Mr. Eraser's shop was in 
Eegent Street, when Oliver Yorke was the presumed editor, 
and among contributors, Carlyle was one of the most 
notable. I imagine 'that the battle of life was difficult 
enough with him even after he had become one of the 
leading props of that magazine. All that he wrote was 
not taken, and all that was taken was not approved. In 
1837-38, the History of Samuel Titmarsh and. the Greaf 
Hoggarty Diamond appeared in the magazine. The 
Great Hoggarty Diamond is now known to all readers 
of Thackeray's works. It is not my purpose to speak 
specially of 'it here, except to assert that it has been 
thought to be a great success. When it was being 
brought out, the author told a friend of his,-^-and of mine, 
that it was not much thought of at Fraser's, and that he 
had been called upon to shorten it. That is an incident 
disagreeable in its nature to any literary gentleman, and 
likely to be specially so when he knows that his provision 
of bread, certainly of improved bread and butter, is at 
stake. The- man who thus darkens his literary brow with 
the frown of disapproval, has at his disposal all the- loaves 
80& all the 'fishes that' are going. If the writer he, 



i.] BIOGEAPHICAL. 15 

cessful, there will come a time when lie will be above sucli 
frowns; but, when that opinion went forth, Thackeray- 
had not yet made his footing good, and the notice to him 
respecting it must have been very bitter. It was in 
writing this Hoggarty Diamond that Thackeray first 
invented the name of Michael Angelo Titmarsh. Samuel 
Titmarsh was the writer, whereas Michael Angelo was an 
intending illustrator. Thackeray's nose had been broken 
in a school fight, while he was quite a little boy, by 
another little boy, at the Charter House ; and there was 
probably some association intended to be jocose with the 
name of the great artist, whose nose was broken by his 
fellow-student Torrigiano, and who, as it happened, died 
exactly three centuries before Thackeray. 

I can understand all the disquietude of his heart when 
that warning, as to the too great length of his story, was 
given to him. He was not a man capable of feeling at 
any time quite assured in his position, and when that 
occurred he was very far from assurance. I think ihat at 
no time did he doubt the sufficiency of his own mental 
qualification for the work he had taken in hand ; but he 
doubted all else. He doubted the appreciation of the 
world ; he doubted his fitness for turning his intellect to 
valuable account ; he doubted his physical capacity, 
dreading his own lack of industry ; he doubted his luck ; 
he doubted the continual absence of some of those mis- 
fortunes on which the works of literary men are ship- 
wrecked. Though he was aware of his own power, he 
always, to the last, was afraid that his own deficiencies 
should be too strong against him. It was his nature to 
be idle, to put off his work, and then to be angry with 
himself for putting it off. Ginger was hot in the mouth 
with him, and all the allurements of the world were, strong 



16 THACKERAY. [CHAP. 

upon Mm. To find on Monday morning an excuse why he 
should not on Monday do Monday's work was, at the 
time, an inexpressible relief to him, "but had become a 
deep regret, almost a remorse, before the Monday was 
over. To such a one it was not given to believe in him- 
self with that sturdy rock-bound foundation which we see 
to have belonged to some men from the earliest struggles 
of their career. To him, then, must have come an inex- 
pressible pang when he was told that his story must be 
curtailed. 

Who else would have told such a story of himself to 
the first acquaintance he chanced to meet 1 Of Thackeray 
it might be predicted that he certainly would do so. No 
little wound of the kind ever came to him but what he 
disclosed it at once. " They have only bought so many 
of my new book." " Have you seen the abuse of my 
last number 1 " " What am I to turn my hand to 1 They 
are getting tired of my novels." " They don't read it," 
he said to me of Esmond. "So you don't mean to 
. publish my work ]" he said once to a publisher in an open 
company. Other men keep their little troubles to them- 
selves. I have heard even of authors who have declared 
how all the publishers were running after their books ; I 
have heard some discourse freely of their fourth and fifth 
editions ; I have known an author to boast of his thou- 
sands sold in this country, and his tens of thousands in 
America ; but I never heard anyone else declare that no 
one would read his chef-d'oeuvre, and that the world was 
becoming tired of him. It was he who said, when 
he was fifty, that a man past fifty should never write a 
novel. 

And yet, as I have said, he was from an early age fully 
Conscious of bis own ability. That he was so is to be 



].] BIOGRAPHICAL. 17 

seen in the handling of many of his early works, in 
Barry Lyndon, for instance, and the Memoirs of 
Mr. C. James Yellowplusli. The sound is too certain 
for doubt of that kind. But he had not then, nor did he 
ever achieve that assurance of public favour which makes 
a man confident that his work will be successful During 
the years of which we are now speaking Thackeray was a 
literary Bohemian in this sense, that he never regarded 
his own status as certain. "While performing much of 
the best of his life's work he was not sure of his market, 
not certain of his readers, his publishers, or his price ; 
nor was he certain of himself. 

It is impossible not to form some contrast between him 
and Dickens as to this period of his life, a comparison 
not as to their literary merits, but literary position. 
Dickens was one year his junior in age, and at this 
time, viz. 1837-38, had reached almost the zenith of his 
reputation. Pickwick had been published, and Oliver 
Twist and Nicholas Niclde'bij were being published. All 
the world was talking about the young 'author who 
was assuming his position with a confidence in his own 
powers which was fully justified both by his present 
and future success. It was manifest that he could 
make, not only his own fortune, but that of his pub- 
lishers, and that he was a literary hero bound to be 
worshipped by all literary grades of men, down to the 
" devils " of the printing-office. At that time, Thackeray, 
the older man, was still doubting, still hesitating, still 
struggling. Everyone then had accepted the name of 
Charles Dickens. That of William Thackeray was hardly 
known beyond the circle of those who are careful to 
make themselves acquainted with such matters. It was' 
then the custom, more generally than it is at present, to 

o 



18 THACKERAY. [CHAP. 

maintain anonymous -writing in magazines. Now, if any- 
thing of special merit "be brought out, the name of the 
author, if not published, is . known. It was much less 
so at the period in question ; and as the world of readers 
began to be acquainted with Jeames Yellowplush, 
Catherine Hayes, and ofcher heroes and heroines, the 
names of the author had to be inquired for. I remember 
myself, when I was already well acquainted with the 
immortal Jeames, asking who was the writer. The works 
of Charles Dickens were at that time as well known to be 
his, and as widely read in England, as those almost of 
Shakespeare. 

It will be said of course that this came from the earlier 
popularity of Dickens. That is of course; but why 
should it have been so 1 They had begun to make their 
effort much at the same time; and if there was any 
advantage in point of position as they commenced, it was 
with Thackeray. It might be said that the genius of the 
one was brighter than that of the other, or, at any rate, that 
it was more precocious. But after-judgment has, I think, 
not declared either of the suggestions to be true. I will 
make no comparison between two such rivals, who were so 
distinctly different from each, and each of whom, within 
so very short a period, has come to stand on a pedestal 
so high, the two exalted to so equal a vocation. And if 
Dickens showed the best of his power early in life, so did 
Thackeray the best of his intellect. In no display 'of 
mental force did he rise above Barry Lyndon.- 'I hardly 
know how the teller of a narrative shall hope to mount 
in simply intellectual faculty above the effort there. made, 
In what then was the difference? Why was Dickens 
already a great man when Thackeray was still a literarv 
Bohemian,? 



i.] BIOGRAPHICAL. 19 

The answer is to 'be found not in the extent or in the* 
nature of the genius of either man, but in the condition 
of mind, which indeed may be read plainly in 'their 
works by those who have eyes to see. The one was 
steadfast, industrious, full of purpose, never doubting of 
himself, always putting his best foot foremost and stand- 
ing firmly on it when he got it there; with no inward 
trepidation, with no moments in which he was half in- 
clined to -think that this race was not for his winning, this 
goal not to be reached by 'his struggles. The sympathy 
of friends was good to him, but he could have clone 
without it. The good opinion which he had of himself 
Was never shaken by adverse criticism ; and the criticism 
on the other side, by which it was exalted, came from the 
enumeration of the number of copies sold. He was a 
firm reliant man, very little prone to change, who, when 
he had discovered the nature of his own talent, knew how 
to do the very best with it. 

It may almost be said that Thackeray was the very 
opposite of this. Unsteadfast, idle, changeable of pur- 
pose, aware of his own intellect but not trusting it, no 
man ever failed more generally than he to put his \>est 
foot foremost. Full as his works are of pathos, full of 
humour, full of love and charity, tending, as they always" 
do, to truth and honour and manly worth and womanly 
modesty, excelling, as they seem to me to do, most other 
written precepts that I know, they always seem to lack 
something that might have been there. There is a touch 
of -vagueness which indicates that his pen was not firm 
while he was using it. He seems to me to have been 
dreaming ever of some high flight, and then to have told 
himself, with a half-broken heart, that it was bey'ond his" 
power- to" soar up iixib' those'' tright regions. I can'fancy 

c 2 



zu THACKERAY. [CHAP. 

as the sheets went from him every day lie told himself, 
in regard to every sheet, that it was a failure. Dickens 
was quite sure of his sheets. 

" I have got to make it shorter ! " Then he would 
put his hands in his pockets, and stretch himself, and 
straighten the lines of his face, over which a smile would 
come, as though this intimation from his editor were the 
best joke in the world; and he would walk away, with 
his heart bleeding, and every nerve in an agony. There 
are none of us who want to have much of his work 
shortened now. 

In 1837 Thackeray married Isabella, daughter of Colonel 
Matthew Shawe, and from this union there came three 
daughters, Anne, Jane, and Harriet. The name of the 
eldest, now Mrs. Richmond Ritchie, who has followed so 
closely in her father's steps, is a household word to the 
world of novel readers \ the second died as a child \ the 
younger lived to marry Leslie Stephen, who is too well 
known for me to say more than that he wrote, the other 
day, the little volume on Dr. Johnson in this series ; but 
she, too, has now followed her father. Of Thackeray's 
married life what need be said shall be contained in a 
very few words. It was grievously unhappy; but the 
misery of it came from God, and was in no wise due to 
human fault. She became ill, and her mind failed her. 
There was a period during which he would not believe 
that her illness was more than illness, and then he clung 
to her and waited on her with an assiduity of affection 
which only made his task the more painful to him. At 
last it became evident that she should live in the com- 
panionship of some one with whom her life might be 
altogether quiet, and she has since been domiciled with a 
lady with whom, she has been happy. Thus she was* 



L] BIOGBAPHICAL. 21 

after but a few years of married life, taken away from 
him, and he became as it were a widower till the end of 
his days. 

At this period, and indeed for some years after his 
marriage, his chief literary dependence was on Fraser^s 
Magazine. He wrote also at this time in the New Monthly 
Magazine. In 1840 he brought out his Paris Sketch Book, 
as to which he tells us by a notice printed with the 
first edition, that half of the sketches had already been 
published in various periodicals. Here he used the name 
Michael Angelo Titmarsh, as he did also with the Journey 
from Cornliill to Cairo. Dickens had called himself Boz, 
and clung to the name with persistency as long as the 
public would permit it. Thackeray's affection for assumed 
names was more intermittent, though I doubt whether he 
used his own name altogether till it appeared on the title- 
page of Vanity Fair. About this time began his con- 
nection with Punch, in which much of his best work 
appeared. Looking back at our old friend as he used to 
come out from week to week at this time, we can hardly 
boast that we used to recognise how good the literary 
pabulum was that was then given for our consumption. 
We have to admit that the ordinary reader, as the ordinary 
picture-seer, requires to be guided by a name. "We are 
moved to absolute admiration by a Eaphael or a Hobbema, 
but hardly till we have learned the name of the painter, 
or, at any rate, the manner of his painting. I am not sure 
that all lovers of poetry would recognise a Lytidas coming 
from some hitherto unknown Milton. Gradually the good 
picture or the fine poem makes its way into the minds of 
a slowly discerning public. Punch, no doubt, 'became 
very popular, owing, perhaps, more to Leech, its artist, 
than to any other single person. Gradually the world 



22 TOAGKERA.Y. [CHIP. 

of readers began to know that there was a speciality 6f 
humour to he, found in its pages,-^-fun and sense, satire 
and good humour, compressed together in small literary 
morsels as the nature of its columns required, . Gradually 
the name of Thackeray as one of the hand of brethren 
was buzzed -about, and gradually became known- as that 
of the chief of the literary brothers. But during the years 
in which. he did much for Punch, say from 1843 to 1-853, he 
was still struggling to make good his footing in literature. 
They knew him well in the Punch -office, and no doubt the 
amount and regularity x>f the cheques from Messrs. Brad- 
bury and Evans, the then and still owners of that happy 
periodical, made him aware that he had found, for himself 
a satisfactory career. In "a good _day for himself, the 
journal, and the world, Thackeray found Punch." This 
was said by his old friend Shirley Brooks, who himself 
lived to be editor of the paper and died in harness, and 
was said most truly. Punch Ayas more congenial to him, 
and no doubt more generous, than Fraser. There was still 
something of the literary Bohemian about him, but not as 
it had been before. He was still unfixed, looking out for 
some higher career, not altogether satisfied to be no m6re 
than one of an anonymous band of brothers, even though 
the brothers were the brothers of Punch. We can only 
imagine what were his thoughts as to himself and that 
other man, who was then known; as the great novelist trf 
the day, of a rivalry with whom he was certainly con- 
scious. Punch was very much to him, but was not quite 
enough. That must have been very clear to himself as 
he meditated the beginning of Vanity Fair, 

Of the 'contributions to the periodical, the best known 
now are The Snob Papers and TJie Ballads- of Police* ' 
man X But, they .were very numerous, . Of Thackeray 



as a poet, or maker of verses, I will say a, few words in a 
chapter which will be devoted to his own so-called "ballads. 
Here 'it seems" only necessary to remark that there was not 
apparently any time in his career at which he began 
to think seriously: of appearing before the public as a 
poet. Such" was the intention early in their career with 
many of our best known prose writers, with Milton, and 
Goldsmith, and Samuel Johnson, with Scott, Macaulay, 
and more lately with Matthew Arnold ; writers of verse 
and prose who ultimately prevailed some in one direction, 
and others in the other. Milton and Goldsmith have been 
known best as poets, Johnson and Macaulay as writers of 
prose. But with all of them there has been a distinct 
effort in each art. Thackeray seems to have tumbled into 
versification by accident; writing it as amateurs do, a 
little now and again for his own delectation, and to catch 
the taste of partial friends. The reader feels that Thackeray 
would not have begun to print his verses unless the oppor^ 
tuhity of doing so had been brought in his way by his doings 
in prose. And yet he had begun to write verses when he 
was very young ; at Cambridge, as we have seen, when he 
contributed more to the fame of Timbuctoo than I think 
even Tennyson has done, and in his early years at Paris. 
Here again, though he must have felt the strength of his 
own mingled humour and pathos, he always struck with 
an uncertain note till he had gathered strength and con- 
fidence by popularity. Good as they generally were, his 
verses were accidents, written not as a writer writes who 
claims to be a poet, but as though they might have been 
the relaxation of a doctor or a barrister. 

And so they were. When Thackeray first settled him- 
self in London, to make his' living among the magazines 
and newspapers, I do not imagine that he counted much 



on his poetic powers. He describes it all in his own 
dialogue "between the pen and the album. 

" Since he," says the pen, speaking of its master, 
Thackeray : 

Since he my faithful service did engage, 
To follow him through his queer pilgrimage 
I've drawn and written many a line and page. 

Caricatures I scribbled have, and rhymes, 
And dinner-cards, and picture pantomimes, 
And many little children's books at times. 

I've writ the foolish fancy of his brain ; 

The aimless jest that, striking, hath caused pain; 

The idle word that he'd wish back again. 

I've helped him to pen many a line for bread. 

It was thus he thought of his work. There had been 
caricatures, and rhymes, and many little children's books ; 
and then the lines written for his bread, which, except 
that they were written for Punch, were hardly undertaken 
with a more serious purpose. In all of it there was 
ample seriousness, had he known it himself. What a tale 
of the restlessness, of the ambition, of the glory, of the 
misfortunes of a great country is given in the ballads of 
Peter the French drummer ! Of that brain so full of 
fancy the pen had lightly written all the fancies. He 
did not know it when he was doing so, but with that 
word, fancy, he has described exactly the gift with which 
his brain was specially endowed. If a writer be accurate, 
or sonorous, or witty, or simply pathetic, he may, I think, 
gauge his own powers. He may do so after experience 
with something of certainty. But fancy is a gift which 
the owner of it cannot measure, and the power of which, 
jvhen be is using it, he cannot himself understand. 



There is the same lambent flame flickering over every- 
thing he did, even the dinner-cards and the picture pan- 
tomimes. He did not in the least know what he put 
into those things. So it was with his verses. It was 
only by degrees, when he was told of it by others, that 
he found that they too were of infinite value to him in 
his profession. 

The Irish Sketch Boole came out in 1843, in which he 
used, but only half used, the name of Michael Angelo 
Titmarsh. He dedicates it to Charles Lever, and in 
signing the dedication gave his own name. "Laying 
aside," he says, "for a moment the travelling title of 
Mr. Titmarsh, let me acknowledge these favours in my own 
name, and subscribe myself, &c. &c., "W. M. Thackeray." 
So he gradually fell into the declaration of his own identity. 
In 1844 he made his journey to Turkey and Egypt, From 
Oornhill to Grand Cairo, as he called it, still using the old 
nom de plame, but again signing the dedication with his 
own name. It was now made to the captain of the vessel 
in- which he encountered that famous white squall, in 
describing which he has shown the wonderful power he 
had over words. 

In 1846 was commenced, in numbers, the novel which 
first made his name well known to the world. This was 
Vanity Fair, a work to which it is evident that he 
devoted all his mind. Up to this time his writings 
had consisted of short contributions, chiefly of sketches, 
each intended to stand by itself in the periodical to 
which it was sent. Barry Lyndon had hitherto been 
the longest ; but that and Catherine Hayes, and the 
Hoggarty Diamond, though stories continued through 
various numbers, had not as yot reached the dignity, 01 
at any rate the length, of a three-volume novel. But of 



26 , 'THACKERAY. 

late novels, had' grown to be much' longer than those "of the 
old well-known measure. Dickens had stretched his to 
nearly "double the length, and had published them in twenty 
numbers. , The attempt had caught the "public taste and 
had been pre-eminently successful. The nature of the 
tale, as originated by him was altogether unlike that 
to which the readers of modern novels had been used. 
No plot, with an arranged catastrophe or denoument, was 
necessary. Some untying of the various knots of the 
narrative no doubt were expedient, but these were of the 
simplest kind, done with the view of giving an end to that 
which might otherwise be endle'ss. The adventures of a 
PlcJcwicJc or a Nickleby required very little of a plot, and this 
mode of telling a story, which- might be continued on 
through any number of pages, as long as the characters were 
interesting, met with approval. Thackeray, who had never 
depended much on his plot in the shorter tales which he 
had hitherto told, determined to adopt the same form in 
his first great work, but with these changes That as the 
central character with Dickens had always been made 
beautiful with unnatural virtue, for who was ever so un- 
selfish as Pickwick, so manly and modest as Nicholas, or 
so good a boy as Oliver ? so should his centre of interest 
be in every respect abnormally bad. 

As to Thackeray's reason for this, or rather as to that 
condition of mind which brought about this result, I will' 
say something in a final chapter, in which I will en- 
deavour to describe the nature and effect of his work gene- 
rally. Here it will be necessary only to declare that, such 
was the choice he now made of a subject in his first attempt 
to rise out of a world of small literary contributions, into 
the more assured position of the author of a work of 
importance. "We are aware that the monthly nurses of 



I.]-- BIOGRAPHICAL. 27 

perio'dical literature did' not at first smile -on the -effort. 
The proprietors of magazines did not see their' way to under- 
take Vanity Fair, and the publishers are said .to. have gene- 
rally looked shy upon it. At last it was brought out in 
numbers, twenty-four numbers instead of twenty, as with 
those, by Dickens, under the guardian hands of Messrs. 
Bradbury and Evans, This was completed in 1848, and 
then it was that, at the age of thirty-seven, Thackeray first 
achieved for himself a name and reputation through the 
country. Before this he had been known at Frasefs and 
at the Punch office. He was known at the Garrick Club, 
and had become individually popular among literary men 
in London. He had made many fast friends, and had 
been, as it were, found out by persons of distinction. 
But Jones, and Smith, and Eobinson, in Liverpool, Man- 
chester, and Birmingham, did not know him as they knew 
Dickens, Carlyle, Tennyson, and Macaulay, not as they 
knew Landseer, or Stansfeld, or Turner; not as they 
knew Macready, Charles Kean, or Miss Faucit. In 
that year, 1848, his name became common in the 
memoirs of the time. On the 5th of June I find him 
dining with Macready, to meet Sir J. Wilson, Panizzi, 
Landseer, and others. A few days afterwards Macready 
dinfcd with him. " Dined with Thackeray, met the Gordons, 
Kenyons, Procters, Eeeve, Yilliers, Evans, Stansfeld, and 
saw Mrs. -Sartoris and S. C. Dance, White, H. Goldsniid, 
in the evening." Again; "Dined with ,Foister, having 
called and taken up Brookfield, met Bintoul, Eenyon, 
Procter, Kinglake, Alfred Tennyson, Thackeray." Macready 
was very accurate in jotting down the name? of those 
lie entertained, who entertained him, or were entertained 
with him. Vanity Fair was coming out, and Thackeray 
bad -become one of the- personages in literary society. 1 



28 THACKERAY. [CHA*. 

In the January number of 1848 the Edinburgh Review 
had an article on Thackeray's works generally as they 
were then known. It purports to combine the Irish 
Sketch Book, the Journey from Cornhill to Grand Cairo, 
and Vanity Fair as far as it had then gone; but it 
does in truth deal chiefly with the literary merits of the 
latter. I will quote a passage from the article, as proving 
in regard to Thackeray's work an opinion which was well 
founded, and as telling the story of his life as far as it 
was then known ; 

" Full many a valuable truth," says the reviewer, 
" has been sent undulating through the air by men who 
have lived and died unknown. At this moment the 
rising generation are supplied with the best of their 
mental aliment by writers whose names are a dead letter 
to the mass ; /ind among the most remarkable of these 
is Michael Angelo Titmarsh, alias William Makepeace 
Thackeray, author of the Irish Sketch Book, of A Journey 
from Cornhill to Grand Cairo, of Jeametis Diary, of The 
Snou Pctpers in Punch, of Vanity Fair, etc. etc. 

"Mr. Thackeray is now about thirty-seven years of 
age, of a good family, and originally intended for the 
bar. He kept seven or eight terms at Cambridge, but 
left the university without taking a degree, with the 
view of becoming an artist; and we well remember, 
ten or twelve years ago, finding him day after day 
engaged in copying pictures in the Louvre, in order to 
qualify himself for his intended profession. It may be 
doubted, however, whether any degree of assiduity would 
have enabled him to excel in the money-making branches, 
for his talent was altogether of the Hogarth kind, and 
was principally remarkable in the pen-and-ink sketches 
of character arid situation, which he dashed off for the 



T -J BIOGRAPHICAL. 29 

amusement of his friends. At the end of two or three 
years of desultory application he gave up the notion of 
becoming a painter, and took to literature. He set up 
and edited with marked ability a weekly journal, on the 
plan of The Athenceum and Literary Gazette, but was 
unable to compete successfully with such long-established 
rivals. He then became a regular man of letters, that 
is, he wrote for respectable magazines and newspapers, 
until the attention attracted to his contributions in 
Frasei's Magazine and Punch emboldened him to start 
on his own account, and risk an independent publication." 
Then follows a eulogistic and, as I think, a correct 
criticism on the book as far as it had gone. There 
are a few remarks perhaps a little less eulogistic as to 
some of his minor writings, The Snob Peters in particular ; 
and at the end there is a statement with which I think 
we shall all now agree; "A writer with such a pen and 
pencil as Mr. Thackeray's is an acquisition of real and 
high value in our literature." 

The reviewer has done his work in a tone friendly to 
the author, whom he knew, 1 as indeed it may be said 
that this little book will be written with the same 
feeling, but the public has already recognised the 
truth of the review generally. There can be no doubt 
that Thackeray, though he had hitherto been but a con- 
tributor of anonymous pieces to periodicals, to what is 
generally considered as merely the ephemeral literature of 
the month, had already become effective on the tastes 
and morals of readers. Affectation of finery; the vul- 
garity which apes good breeding but never approaches it ; 

1 Tne article was written by Abraham Eayward, who is still 
with its, and was no doubt instigated by a desire to assist 
Thacketay in his struggle upwards, in whiph it succeeded. 



30 THACKERAY. [CHAP. 

dishonest "gambling, whether with dice or with railway 
shares and that low taste for literary excitement which 
is gratified by mysterious murders and Old Eailey exe- 
cutions had already received condign punishment from 
Yellowplush, Titmarsh, Fitzboodle, and Ikey Solomon. 
Under all those names Thackeray had plied his trade as a 
satirist. Though the truths, as the reviewer said, had 
been merely sent undulating through the air, they had 
already become effective. 

Thackeray had now become a personage, one of the 
recognised stars of the literary heaven of the day. It 
was an honour to know him ; and we may well believe 
that the givers of dinners were proud to have him among 
their guests. He had opened his oyster, with his pen, 
an achievement which he cannot be said to have accom- 
plished until Vanity Fair had come out. In inquiring 
about him from those who survive him, and knew him 
well in those days, I always hear the same account. " If I 
could only tell you the impromptu lines wliich fell from 
him ! " " If I had only kept the drawings from his 
pen, which used to be chucked about as though they 
were worth nothing !" "If I, could only remember the 
drolleries !" Had they been kept, there might now be 
many volumes of these sketches, as to .which the reviewer 
says that their talent wais "altogether of the Hogarth 
kind." Could there be any kind more valuable 1 Like 
Hogarth, he could always make his picture tell his 
story; though, unlike Hogarth, he had not learned, 
to draw. I have had sent to me for m'y inspection 
an album of drawings and letters, which, in the course, 
pf twenty years, from 1829 to 1849, were despatched 
from Thackeray . to his old - friend Edward Fitzgerald. 
Looking ,at, ,the ,wit displayed in "the drawings)- I feel- 



I.] BIOGEAPHICAL. 31 

Inclined to say that had he persisted he would have been 
a second Hogarth. There is a series of "ballet scenes, 
in which "Flora et Zephyr" are the two chief performers, 
which for expression and drollery exceed anything that 
I know of the kind. The set in this book are litho- 
graphs, which were published, but I do not remember 
to have seen them elsewhere. There are still among 
ns many wno knew hint well ; Edward Fitzgerald and 
George Yenables, Jarnes Spedding and Kinglake, Mrs. 
Procter, the widow of Barry Cornwall, who loved him 
well, and Monckton Milnes, as he used to be, whose 
touching lines written just after Thackeray's death will 
close this volume, Frederick Pollock and Frank Fladgate, 
John Black wood and William Kussell, and they all tell 
the same story. Though he so rarely talked, as good talkers 
do, and was averse to sit down to work, there were always 
falling from his mouth and pen those little pearls. Among 
the friends who had been kindest and dearest to him in 
the days of his strugglings he once mentioned three to me, 
- Matthew Higgins, or Jacob Omnium as he was more 
popularly called ; William Stirling, who became Sir 
William Maxwell ; and Eussell Sturgis, who is now the 
senior partner in the great house of Barings. Alas, only 
the last of these three is left among us ! Thackeray was a 
man of no great power of conversation. I doubt whether 
he ever shone in what is called general society. He was 
not a man to be valuable at a dinner-table as a good 
talker. It was when there were but two or three together 
that he was happy himself and made others happy ; and 
then it would rather be from some special piece of 
drollery that the joy of the moment would come, than 
from the discussion of ordinary topics. After so many 
fears his old friends remember ,the fa&ends of -the 
doggerel lines which used to drop from hif | without any 



32 THACKERAY. [CHAP. 

effort on all occasions of jollity. And though he could 
"be very sad, laden with melancholy, as I think must 
have been the case with him always, the feeling of fun 
would quickly come to him, and the queer rhymes would 
he poured out as plentifully as the sketches were made. 
Here is a contribution which I find hanging in the memory 
of an old friend, the serious nature of whose literary 
labours would certainly have driven such lines from his 
mind, had they not at the time caught fast hold of him ; 

In the romantic little town of Highbury 

My father kept a oirculatin' library ; 

He followed in his youth that man immortal, who 

Conquered the Frenchmen on the plains of Waterloo. 

Mamma was an inhabitant of Drogheda, 

Very good she was to darn and to embroider. 

In the famous island of Jamaica, 

For thirty years I've been a sugar-baker ; 

And here I sit, the Muses', 'appy vot'ry, 

A cultivatin' every kind of po'try. 

There may, perhaps, have been a mistake in a line, but 
the poem has been handed down with fair correctness over 
a period of forty years. He was always versifying. He 
once owed me five pounds seventeen shillings and six- 
pence, his share of a dinner bill at Eichmond. He sent 
me a cheque for the amount in rhyme, giving the proper 
financial document on the second half of a sheet of note 
paper. I gave the poem away as an autograph, and now 
forget the lines. This was all trifling, the reader will say. 
No doubt. Thackeray was always trifling, and yet always 
serious. In attempting to understand his character it is 
necessary for you to bear within your own mind the idea that 
he was always, within his own bosom, encountering melan- 
choly with buffoonery, and meanness with satire. The 
very spirit of burlesque dwelt within him, a spirit 



*] BIOGRAPHICAL. 33 

does not see tlie grand the less because of the travesties 
which it is always engendering. 

In his youthful, all hut boyish, days in London, 
he delighted to "put himself up" at the Bedford, in 
Covent Garden. Then in his early married days he lived 
in Albion Street, and from thence went to Great Coram 
Street, till his household there was broken up by his 
wife's illness. He afterwards took lodgings in St. James's 
Chambers, and then a house in Young Street, Kensington. 
Here he lived from 1847, when he was achieving his great 
triumph with Vanity Fair t down to 1853, when he re- 
moved to a house which he bought in Onslow Square, 
In Young Street there had come to lodge opposite to him 
an Irish gentleman, who, on the part of his injured country, 
felt very angry with Thackeray. 27? e Irish Sketch Book 
had not been complimentary, nor were the descriptions 
which Thackeray had given generally of Irishmen; and there 
was extant an absurd idea that in his abominable heroine 
Catherine Hayes he had alluded to Miss Catherine Hayes 
the Irish singer. Word was taken to Thackeray that this 
Irishman intended to come across the street and avenge 
his country on the calumniator's person. Thackeray imme- 
diately called upon the gentleman, and it is said that the 
visit was pleasant to both parties. There certainly was no 
blood shed. 

He had now succeeded, in 1848, in making for hira* 
self a standing as a man of letters, and an income. "What 
was the extent of his income I have no means of saying ; 
nor is it a subject on which, as I think, inquiry should 
be made. But he was not satisfied with his position. 
He felt it to be precarious, and he was always thinking of 
what he owed to his two girls. That arbitrium popularis 
aurce on which he depended for his daily bread was not 



regarded by him with the confidence which it deserved. 
He did not probably know how firm was the hold he had 
obtained of the public ear. At any rate he was anxious, 
and endeavoured to secure for himself a permanent income 
in the public service. He had become by this time 
acquainted, probably intimate, with the Marquis of 
Clanricarde ; who was then Postmaster-General. In 1848 
there fell a vacancy in the situation of Assistant-Secretary 
at the General Post Office, and Lord Clanricarde either 
offered it to him or promised to give it to him. The 
Postmaster-General had the disposal of the place, but was 
not altogether free from control in the matter. When 
he made known his purpose at the Post Office, he was 
met by an assurance from the officer n-ext under him that 
the thing could not be done. The services were wanted 
of a man who had had experience in the Post Office; 
and, moreover, it was necessary that the feelings of other 
gentlemen should be consulted. Men who have been 
serving in an office many years do not like to see even a 
man of genius put over their heads. In fact, the office 
would have been up in arms at such an injustice. 
Lord Clanricarde, who in a matter of patronage was not 
scrupulous, was still a good-natured man and amenable. 
He attempted to befriend his friend till he found that 
it was impossible, and then, with the best grace in the 
world, accepted the official nominee that was offered to 
him. 

It may be said that had Thackeray succeeded in that 
attempt he would surely have ruined himself. No man 
can be fit for the management and performance of special 
work who has learned nothing of it before his thirty- 
seventh year ; and no man could have been less so than 
Thackeray. There are men who, though they be not fit, 
8?e disposed to learn tjieir lesson and make themselves as 



1,1 BIOGRAPHICAL 86 

fit as possible. Such cannot be said to have "been the case 
with this man. For the special duties which he would 
have been called upon to perform, consisting to a great 
extent of the maintenance of discipline over a large 
body of men, training is required, and the service would 
have suffered for awhile under any untried elderly tiro. 
Another man might have put himself into harness. 
Thackeray never would have done so. The details of 
his work after the first month would have been inex- 
pressibly wearisome to him. To have gone into the city, 
and to have remained there every day from eleven till 
five, would have been all but impossible to him. He 
would not have done it. And then he would have been 
tormented by the feeling that he was taking the pay and 
not doing the work. There is a belief current, not confined 
to a few, that a man may be a Government Secretary 
with a generous salary, and have nothing to do. The 
idea is something that remains to us from, the old 
days of sinecures. If there be now remaining places so 
pleasant, or gentlemen so happy, I do not know them. 
Thackeray's notion of his future duties was probably 
very vague. He would have repudiated the notion that 
he was looking for a sinecure, .but no doubt considered 
that the duties would be easy and light. It is not too 
much to assert, that he who could drop his pearls as I 
have said above, throwing them wide cast without an 
effort, would have found his work as Assistant-Secretary 
at the General Post Office to be altogether too much for 
him. And then it was no doubt his intention to join 
literature with the Civil Service. He had been taught to 
regard the Civil Service as . easy, and had counted upon 
himself as able to add it to his novels, and his work with 
his Punch brethren, and to his contributions generally to 
the literature of the day. He might have done so* could 



36 THACKERAY. [CHAP. 

he have risen at five, and have sat at his private desk for 
three hours before he began his official routine at the 
public one. A capability for grinding, an aptitude for 
continuous task work, a disposition to sit in one's chair as 
though fixed to it by cobbler's wax, will enable a man in 
the prime of life to go through the tedium of a second 
day's work every day ; but of all men Thackeray was the 
last to bear the wearisome perseverance of such a life. 
Some more or less continuous attendance at his office he 
must have given, and with it would have gone Punch 
and the novels, the ballads, the burlesques, the essays, the 
lectures, and the monthly papers full of mingled satire and 
tenderness, which have left to us that Thackeray which we 
could so ill afford to lose out of the literature of the nine- 
teenth century. And there would have remained to the 
Civil Service the memory of a disgraceful job. 

He did not, however, give up the idea of the Civil 
Service. In a letter to his American friend, Mr. Keed, 
dated Sth November, 1854, he says; "The secretaryship 
of our Legation at Washington was vacant the other day, 
and I instantly asked for it ; but in the very kindest letter 
Lord Clarendon showed how the petition was impossible. 
First, the place was given away. Next, it would not be 
fair to appoint out of the service. But the first was an 
excellent reason ; not a doubt of it." The validity of the 
second was probably not so apparent to him as it is to one 
who has himself waited long for promotion. " So if ever 
I come," he continues, " as I hope and trust to do this 
time next year, it must be in my own coat, and not the 
Queen's." Certainly in his own coat, and not in the 
Queen's, must Thackeray do anything by which he could 
mend his fortune or make his reputation. There never 
a man less fit for the Queen's coat. 



i.] BIOGRAPHICAL. 37 

Nevertheless lie lield strong ideas that much was due 
by the Queen's ministers to men of letters, and no doubt 
had his feelings of slighted merit, because no part of the 
debt due was paid to him. In 1850 he wrote a letter to 
The Morning Chronicle, which has since been republished, 
in which he alludes to certain opinions which had been 
put forth in The Examiner. " I don't see," he says, " why 
men of letters should not very cheerfully coincide with 
Mr. Examiner in accepting all the honours, places, and 
prizes which they can get. The amount of such as will 
be awarded to them will not, we may be pretty sure, 
impoverish the country much ; and if it is the custom of 
the State to reward by money, or titles of honour, or stars 
and garters of any sort, individuals who do the country 
service, and if individuals are gratified at having c Sir ' or 
' My lord : appended to their names, or stars and ribbons 
hooked on to their coats and waistcoats, as men most 
undoubtedly are, and as their wives, families, and relations 
are, there can be no reason why men of letters should not 
have the chance, as well as men of the robe or the sword ; 
or why, if honour and money are good for one profession, 
they should not be good for another. No man in other 
callings thinks himself degraded by receiving a reward 
from his Government j nor, surely, need the literary man 
be more squeamish about pensions, and ribbons, and titles, 
than the ambassador, or general, or judge. Every European 
state but ours rewards its men of letters. The American 
Government gives them their full share of its small 
patronage j and if Americans, why not Englishmen 1 " 

In this a great subject is discussed which would be 
too long for these pages ; but I think that there now 
exists a feeling that literature can herself, for herself, 
produce a rank as effective as any that a Queen's minister 



38 THACKEKAY. [CHAP. 

can bestow. Surely it would be a repainting of the lily, 
an adding a flavour to the rose, a gilding of refined gold 
to create to-morrow a Lord Viscount Tennyson, a Baron 
Carlyle, or a Eight Honourable Sir Robert Browning. 
And as for pay and pension, the less the "better of it for 
any profession, unless so far as it may be payment made 
for work done. Then the higher the payment the better, in 
literature as in all other trades. It may be doubted even 
whether a special rank of its own be good for literature, 
such as that which is achieved by the happy possessors of 
the forty chairs of the Academy in France. Even though 
they had an angel to make the choice, which they have 
not, that angel would do more harm to the excluded than 
good to the selected. 

Pendennis, Esmond, and TJie Neweomes followed 
Vanity .Fair, not very quickly indeed, always at an 
interval of two years, in 1850, 1852, and 1854. As I 
purpose to devote a separate short chapter, or part of a 
chapter, to each of these, I need say nothing here of 
their special merits or demerits. Esmond was brought 
out as a whole. The others appeared in numbers. " He 
lisped in numbers, for the numbers canie." It is a mode 
of pronunciation in literature by no means very articulate, 
but easy of production and lucrative. But though easy 
it is seductive/ and leads to idleness, An author by means 
of it can raise money and reputation on his book before he 
has written it, and when the pang of parturition is over 
in regard to one part, he feels himself entitled to a period 
of ease because the amount required for the next division 
will occupy him only half the month. This to Thackeray 
was so alluring, that the .entirety of the final half was not 
always given to the task. His self-reproaches and bemoan- 
ings when sometimes the day for reappearing would come 



tj BIO GRAPHIC At/. 39 

terribly nigh, while yet the necessary amount of copy was far 
from being ready, were often very ludicrous and very sad ; 
ludicrous because he never told of his distress without 
adding to it something of ridicule which was irresistible, 
and sad because those who loved him best were aware 
that physical suffering had already fallen upon him, and 
that he was deterred by illness from the exercise of con- 
tinuous energy. I myself did not know him till after the 
time now in question. My acquaintance with him was 
quite late in his life. But he has told me something of 
it, and I have heard from those who lived with him how 
continual were his sufferings. In 1854, he says in one of 
his letters to Mr. Eeed, the only private letters of his 
which I know to have been published; "I am to-day 
just out of bed after another, about the dozenth, severe 
fit of spasms which I have had this year. My book 
would have been written but for them." His work was 
always going on, but though not fuller of matter, that 
would have been almost impossible, would have been 
better in manner had he been delayed neither by suffering 
nor by that palsying of the energies which suffering 
produces. 

This ought to have been the happiest period o.f his life, 
and should have been very happy. He had become 
fairly easy in his circumstances. He had succeeded in his 
work, and had made for himself a great name. He was 
fond of popularity, and especially anxious to be loved 
by a small circle of friends. These good things he had 
thoroughly achieved. Immediately after the publication 
of Vanity Fair he stood high among the literary heroes 
of his country, and had endeared himself especially to a 
special knot of friends. His face and figure, his six feet 
four in height, with his flowing hair, already nearly gray, 



40 TEACKEBAY. [CHAP. 

and his broken nose, Ms broad forehead and ample chest, 
encountered everywhere either love or respect; and his 
daughters to him were all the world, the "bairns of whom 
he says, at the end of the White Squall ballad ; 

I thought, as day was breaking, 
My little girls were waking, 
And smiling, and making 
A prayer at home for me. 

Nothing could have been more tender or endearing than 
his relations with his children. But still there was a 
skeleton in his cupboard, or rather two skeletons. His 
home had been broken up by his wife's malady, and his 
own health was shattered. When he was writing Pen- 
dennis, in 1849, he had a severe fever, and then those 
spasms came, of which four or five years afterwards he 
wrote to Mr. Eeed. His home, as a home should be, was 
never restored to him, or his health. Just at that period 
of life at which a man generally makes a happy exchange 
in taking his wife's drawing-room in lieu of the smoking- 
room of his club, and assumes those domestic ways of 
living which are becoming and pleasant for matured years, 
that drawing-room and those domestic ways were closed 
against him. The children were then no more than 
babies, as far as society was concerned, things to kiss 
and play with, and make a home happy if they could 
only have had their mother with them. I have no doubt 
there were those who thought that Thackeray was very 
jolly under his adversity. Jolly he was. It was the 
manner of the man to be so, if that continual playful- 
ness which was natural to him, lying over a melancholy 
which wa,s as continual, be compatible with jollity. He 
laughed, and ate, and drank, and threw his pearls about 
with miraculous profusion. Eut I fancy that he was far 



I.] BIOGRAPHICAL. 41 

from happy. I remember once, when I was young, receiv- 
ing advice as to the manner in which I had "better spend 
my evenings ; I was told that I ought to go home, drink 
tea, and read good books. It was excellent advice, but I 
found that the reading of good books in solitude was not 
an occupation congenial to me. It was so I take it, with 
Thackeray. He did not like his lonely drawing-room, and 
went back to his life among the clubs by no means with 
contentment. 

In 1853, Thackeray having then his own two girls to 
provide for, added a third to his family, and adopted 
Amy Crowe, the daughter of an old friend, and sister of 
the well-known artist now among us. How it came to 
pass that she wanted a home, or that this special home 
suited her, it would be unnecessary here to tell even if I 
knew. But tnat he did give a home to this young lady, 
making her in all respects the same as another daughter, 
should be told of him. He was a man who liked to 
broaden his back for the support of others, and to make 
himself easy under such burdens. In 1862, she married a 
Thackeray cousin, a young officer with the Victoria Cross, 
Edward Thackeray, and went out to India, where she 
died. 

In 1854, the year in which The Newcomes came out, 
Thackeray had broken his close alliance with Punch. In 
December of that year there appeared from his pen an 
article in The Quarterly on John Leech's Pictures of Life 
and Character. It is a rambling discourse on picture- 
illustration in genera], full of interest, but hardly good as a 
criticism, a portion of literary work for which he was not 
specially fitted. In it he tells us how Eichard Doyle, the 
artist, had given up his work for Punch, not having been 
able, as a Eoman Catholic, to endure the skits which., at 



42 THACKERAY. 

that time, were appearing in one number after another 
against what was then called Papal aggression. The 
reviewer, Thackeray himself, then tells us of the 
secession of himself from the board of brethren. 
" Another member of Mr. Punch's cabinet, the biographer 
of Jeames, the author of TJie Snob Papers, resigned his 
functions, on account of Mr. Punch's assaults upon the 
present Emperor of the French nation, whose anger 
Jeames thought it was unpatriotic to arouse." How hard 
it must be for Cabinets to agree ! This man or that is 
sure to have some pet conviction of his own, and the 
better the man the stronger the conviction ! Then the 
reviewer went on in favour of the artist of whom he 
was specially speaking, making a comparison which must 
at the time have been odious enough to some of the 
brethren. "There can be no blinking the fact that in 
Mr. Punch's Cabinet John Leech is the right-hand man. 
Fancy a number of Punch without Leech's pictures! 
What would you give for it 1 " Then he breaks out into 
strong admiration of that one friend, perhaps with a 
little disregard as to the feelings of other friends. 1 This 
Critical Revieiv, if it may properly be so called, at any 
rate it is so named as now published, is to be found in 
our author's collected works, in the samp volume with 
Catherine. It is there preceded by another, from The 
Westminster Review, written fourteen years earlier, on 

1 For a week there existed at the Punch office a grudge against 
Thackeray in reference to this awkward question : " What would 
you give for your Punch without John Leech ? " Then he asked 
the confraternity to dinner, more Thackerayano, and the con- 
fraternity came. "Who can doubt but they were very jolly over 
the little blunder ? For years afterwards Thackeray was a guest 
at the well-known Punch dinner, though he was no longer one of 
the contributors* 



1.] * BIOGRAPHICAL. 4ft 

The Genius of Qrmltshank. This contains a descriptive 
catalogue of Cruikshank's works up to that period, and is 
interesting from the piquant style in which it is written. 
I fancy that these two are the only efforts of the kind 
which he made, and in "both he dealt with the two 
great caricaturists of his time, he himself being, in the 
imaginative part of a caricaturist's work, equal in power 
to either of them. 

We now come to a phase of Thackeray's life in which 
he achieved a remarkable success, attributable rather to 
his fame as a writer than to any particular excellence in 
the art which he then exercised. He took upon himself 
the functions of a lecturer, being moved to do so by a 
hope that he might thus provide a sum of money for the 
future sustenance of his children. To doubt he had been 
advised to this course, though I do not know from whom 
specially the advice may have come. Dickens had already 
considered the subject, but had not yet consented to read 
in public for money on his own account. John Forster, 
writing of the year 1846, says of Dickens and the then only 
thought-of exercise of a new profession ; " I continued to 
oppose, for reasons to be stated in their place, that which 
he had set his heart upon too strongly to abandon, and 
which I still can wish he had preferred to surrender with 
all that seemed to be its enormous gain." And again he 
says, speaking of a proposition which had been made to 
Dickens from the town of Bradford ; " At first this was 
entertained, but was abandoned, with some reluctance, 
upon the argument that to become publicly a reader must 
alter, without improving, his position publicly as a writer, 
and that it was a change to be justified only when the 
higher calling should have failed of the old success." 
The meaning of this .was that the money to be made 



44 THACKERAY. ' [CHAP. 

would be sweet, but that the descent to a profession 
which was considered to be lower than that of literature 
itself would carry with it something that was bitter. It 
was as though one who had sat on the woolsack as Lord 
Chancellor should raise the question whether for the sake 
of the income attached to it, he might, without disgrace, 
occupy a seat on a lower bench ; as though an architect 
should consider with himself the propriety of making his 
fortune as a contractor ; or the head of a college lower his 
dignity, while he increased his finances, by taking pupils. 
When such discussions arise, money generally carries the 

day, and should do so. "When convinced that money may 

be earned without disgrace, we ought to allow money to 
carry the day. When we talk of sordid gain and filthy 
lucre, we are generally hypocrites. If gains be sordid 
and lucre filthy, where is the priest, the lawyer, the 
doctor, or the man of literature, who does not wish for 
dirty hands ] An income, and the power of putting by 
something for old age, something for those who are to 
come after, is the wholesome and acknowledged desire of 
all professional men. Thackeray having children, and 
being gifted with no power of making his money go very 
far, was anxious enough on the subject. We may say 
now, that had he confined himself to his pen, he would 
not have wanted while he lived, but would have left but 
little behind him. That he was anxious we have seen, 
by his attempts to subsidise his literary gains by a 
Government office. I cannot but think that had he under- 
taken public duties for which he was ill qualified, and 
received a salary which he could hardly have earned, he 
would have, done less for his fame than by reading to the 
public. Whether he did that well or ill, he did it well 
enough for the money. The people who heard him, and 



i.] BIOGRAPHICAL 45 

who paid for their seats, were satisfied with their- bargain, 
as they were also in the case of Dickens ; and I venture 
to say that in becoming publicly a reader, neither did 
Dickens or Thackeray " alter his position as a writer," 
and " that it was a change to be justified," though the 
success of the^old calling had in no degree waned. TThat 
Thackeray did enabled him to leave a comfortable income 
for his children, and one earned honestly, with the full 
approval of the world around him. 

Having saturated his mind with the literature of 
Queen Anne's time, not probably in the first instance 
as a preparation for Esmond, but in such a way as to 
induce him to create an Esmond, he took the authors 
whom he knew so well as the subject for his first series 
of lectures. He wrote TJie English Humourists of the 
Eighteenth Century in 1851, while he must have been 
at work on Esmond, and first delivered the course at 
Willis's Eooms in that year. He afterwards went with 
these through many of our provincial towns, and then 
carried them to the United States, where he delivered 
them to large audiences in the winter of 1852 and 1853. 
Some few words as to the merits of the composition I 
will endeavour to say in another place. I myself never 
heard him lecture, and can therefore give no opinion of 
the performance. That which I have heard from others 
has been very various. It is, I think, certain that he had 
none of those wonderful gifts of elocution which made it a 
pleasure to listen to Dickens, whatever he read or what- 
ever he said ; nor had he that power of application by 
using which his rival taught himself with accuracy the 
exact effect to be given to every word. The rendering 
of a piece by Dickens was composed as an oratorio is com- 
posed, and was then studied by heart as music is studied 



[_CHAP 

And the piece was all given by memory, without any 
looking at the notes or words. There was nothing of 
this with Thackeray. But the thing read was in itself of 
great interest to educated people. The words were given 
clearly, with sufficient intonation for easy understanding, 
so that they who were willing to hear something from 
him felt on hearing that they had received full value for 
their money. At any rate, the lectures were successful. 
The money was made, and was kept. 

He came from his first trip to America to his new house 
in Onslow Square, and then published Tlce Neivcomes. 
This, too, was one of his great works, as to which I 
shall have to speak hereafter. Then, having enjoyed his 
success in the first attempt to lecture, he prepared a 
second series. He never essayed the kind of reading 
which with Dickens became so wonderfully popular. 
Dickens recited portions from his well-known works. 
Thackeray wrote his lectures expressly for the purpose. 
They have since been added to his other literature, 
but they were prepared as lectures. The second series 
were TJie Four Georges. In a lucrative point of view 
they were even more successful than the first, the sum 
of money realised in the United States having been 
considerable. In England they were less popular, even 
if better attended, the subject chosen having been dis- 
tasteful to many. There arose the question whether 
too much freedom had not been taken with an office 
which, though it be no longer considered to be founded 
on divine right, is still as sacred as can be anything that 
is human. If there is to remain among us a sovereign, 
fchat sovereign, even though divested of political power, 
should be endowed with all that personal respect can 
give. If we wish ourselves to be high, we should 



LJ BIOGRAPHICAL. 47 

that which is over us as high. And this should not de- 
pend altogether on personal character, though we know, 
as we have reason to know, how much may "be added 
to the firmness of the feeling by personal merit. The 
respect of which we speak should, in the strongest degree, 
be a possession of the immediate occupant, and will natu- 
rally become dim, or perhaps be exaggerated, in regard 
to the past, as history or fable may tell of them. "No one 
need hesitate to speak his mind of King John, let him be 
ever so strong a stickler for the privileges of majesty, 
But there are degrees of distance, and the throne of which 
we wish to preserve the dignity seems to be assailed when 
unmeasured evil is said of one who has sat there within 
our own memory. There would seem to each of us to be 
a personal affront were a departed relative delineated with 
all those faults by which we must own that even our near 
relatives have been made imperfect. It is a general convic- 
tion as to this which so frequently turns the biography of 
those recently dead into mere eulogy. The fictitious chanty 
which is enjoined by the de mortuis nil nis-i bonum 
"banishes truth. The feeling of which I speak almost leads 
me at this moment to put down my pen. And, if so much 
be due to all subjects, is less due to a sovereign 2 

Considerations such as these diminished, I think, the 
popularity of Thackeray's second series of lectures; or, 
rather, not their popularity, but the estimation in which 
they were held. On this head he defended himself more 
than once very gallantly, and had a great deal to say on 
his side of the question. "Suppose, for example, in 
America, in Philadelphia or in New York, that I had 
spoken about George IY. in terms of praise and affected 
reverence, do you believe they would have hailed ,his 
name with cheers, or have heard it with anything of 



48 THACKERAY. [CHAP. 

respect 2" And again; " We degrade our own honour 
and the sovereign's by unduly and unjustly praising him ; 
and the mere slaverer and flatterer is one who comes 
forward, as it were, with flash notes, and pays with false 
coin his tribute to Caesar. I don't disguise that I feel 
somehow on my trial here for loyalty, for honest English 
feeling." This was said by Thackeray at a dinner at 
Edinburgh, in 1857, and shows how the matter rested on 
his mind. Thackeray's loyalty was no doubt true enough, 
but was mixed with but little of reverence. He was one 
who revered modesty and innocence rather than power, 
against which he had in the bottom of his heart something 
of republican tendency. His leaning was no doubt of the 
more manly kind. But in what he said at Edinburgh he 
hardly hit the nail on the head. No one had suggested 
that he should have said good things of a king which he 
did not believe to be true. The question was whether it 
may not be well sometimes for us to hold our tongues. 
An American literary man, here in England, would not 
lecture on the morals of Hamilton, on the manners of 
General Jackson, on the general amenities of President 
Johnson. 

In 1857 Thackeray stood for Oxford, in the liberal 
interest, in opposition to Mr. Cardwell. He had been 
induced to do this by his old friend Charles ]STeate ; who 
himself twice sat for Oxford, and died now not manj 
months since. He polled 1,017 votes, against 1,070 by 
Mr. Cardwell; and was thus again saved by his good 
fortune from attempting to fill a situation in which he 
would not have shone. There are, no doubt, many to 
whom a seat in Parliament comes almost as the birthright 
of a well-born and well-to-do English gentleman. They 
go there with no more idea of shining than they do when 



ij BIOGRAPHICAL. 49 

they are elected to a first-class club ; hardly with more 
idea of being useful. It is the thing to do, and the 
House of Commons is the place where a man ought to 
be for a certain number of ho^irs. Such men neither 
succeed nor fail, for nothing is expected of them. Erom 
such a one as Thackeray something would have been 
expected, which would not have been forthcoming. He 
was too desultory for regular work, full of thought, but 
too vague for practical questions. He could not have 
endured to sit for two or three hours at a time with his 
hat over his eyes, pretending to listen, as is the duty of a 
good legislator. He was a man intolerant of tedium, 
' and in the best of his time impatient of slow work. 
"Noi, though his liberal feelings were very strong, were 
his political convictions definite or accurate. He was a 
man who mentally drank in much, feeding his fancy 
hourly with what he saw, what he heard, what he read, 
and then pouring it all out with an immense power of 
amplification. But it would have been impossible for 
him to study and bring home to himself the various 
points of a complicated bill with a hundred and fifty 
clauses. In becoming a man of letters, and taking that 
branch of letters which fell to him, he obtained the 
special place that was fitted for him. He was a round 
peg in a round hole. There was no other hole which he 
would have fitted nearly so well. But he had his moment 
of political ambition, like others, and paid a thousand 
pounds for his attempt. 

In 1857 the first number of The Virginians appeared, 
and the last, the twenty-fourth, in October, 1 859. This 
novel, as all my readers are aware, is a continuance of 
Esmond, and will be spoken of in its proper place. He 
was then forty-eight years old, very gray, with much of 



50 THACKERAY. CHAP. 

age upon him, which had come from suffering, age 
shown by dislike of activity and by an old man's way of 
thinking about many things, speaking as though the 
world were all behind him instead of before; but still 
with a stalwart outward bearing, very erect in his gait, 
and a countenance peculiarly expressive and capable of 
much dignity. I speak of his personal appearance at 
this time, because it was then only that I became 
acquainted with him. In 1859 he undertook the last 
great work of his life, the editorship of Tlie CornMU 
Magazine, a periodical set on foot by Mr. George Smith^ 
of the house of Smith and Elder, with an amount of 
energy greater than has generally been bestowed upon 
such enterprises. It will be well remembered still how 
much TJie CornMU was talked about and thought of 
before it first appeared, and how much of that thinking 
and talking was due to the fact that Mr. Thackeray was 
to edit it. Macmillatfs, I think, was the first of the 
shilling magazines, having preceded The Cornliill by a 
month, and it would ill become me, who have been 
a humble servant to each of them, to give to either any 
preference. But it must be acknowledged that a great 
deal was expected from The Cornhill, and I think it will 
be confessed that it was the general opinion that a great 
deal was given by it. Thackeray had become big enough 
to give a special eclat to any literary exploit to which he 
attached himself. Since the days of The Constitutional 
he had fought his way up the ladder and knew how to 
take his stand there with an assurance of success. When 
it became known to the world of readers that a new 
magazine was to appear under Thackeray's editorship, the 
world of readers was quite sure that there would be a 
large sale, Of, the first number over one 'hundred and ten 



I.] BIOGRAPHICAL. 51 

thousand were sold, and of the second and third over 
one hundred thousand. It is in the nature of such things 
that the sale should fall off when the novelty is over. 
People believe that a new delight has come, a new joy for 
ever, and then find that the joy is not quite so perfect or 
enduring as they had expected. But the commencement 
of such enterprises may be taken as a measure of what 
will follow. The magazine, either by Thackeray's name 
or by its intrinsic merits, probably by both, achieved 
a great success. My acquaintance with him grew from 
my having been one of his staff from the first. 

About two months before the opening day I wrote to 
him suggesting that he should accept from me a series of 
four short stories on which I was engaged. I got back a 
long letter in which he said nothing about my short 
stories, but asking whether I could go to work at once 
and let him have a long novel, so that it might begin 
with the first number. At the same time I heard from 
the publisher, who suggested some interesting little details 
as to honorarium. The little details were very interesting, 
but absolutely no time was allowed to me. It was re- 
quired that the first portion of my book should be in the 
printer's hands within a month. Now it was rny theory, 
and ever since this occurrence has been my practice, 
to see the end of my own work before the public should 
see the commencement 1 If I did this thing I must not 
only abandon my theory, but instantly contrive a story, or 

3 I had begun an Irish story and half finished it, which, would 
reach, just the required length. Would that do, I asked. I was 
civilly told that my Irish, story would no doubt be charming, 
but was not quite the thing that was wanted. Could I not begin 
a new one, English, and if possible about clergymen ? The 
details were so interesting that had a couple of archbishops been 
demanded, I should have produced them. 



52 THACKERAY. [CHAP, 

begin to write it before it was contrived. That was what 
I did, urged by the interesting nature of the details. A 
novelist cannot always at the spur of the moment make 
his plot and create his characters who shall, with an 
arranged sequence of events, live with a certain degree of 
eventful decorum, through that portion of their lives which 
is to be portrayed. I hesitated, but allowed myself to "be 
allured to what I felt to be wrong, much dreading the 
event. How seldom is it that theories stand the wear and 
tear of practice ! I will not say that the story which 
came was good, but it was received with greater favour 
than any I had written before or have written since. I 
think that almost anything would have been then accepted 
coming under Thackeray's editorship. 

I was astonished that work should be required in such 
haste, knowing that much preparation had been made, and 
that the service of almost any English novelist might have 
been obtained if asked for in due time. It was my 
readiness that was needed, rather than any other gift ! 
The riddle was read to me after a time. Thackeray had 
himself intended to begin with one of his own great 
novels, but had put it off till it was too late. Lovel the 
Widower was commenced at the same time with my own 
story, but Lovel the Widower was not substantial enough 
to appear as the principal joint at the banquet. Though 
your guests will undoubtedly dine off the little delicacies 
you provide for them, there must be a heavy saddle 
of mutton among the viands prepared. I was the saddle 
of mutton, Thackeray having omitted to get his joint down 
to the fire in time enough. My fitness lay in my capacity 
for quick roasting. 

It may be interesting to give a list of the contributors 
to the first number. My novel called Framleij Parsovaye 



I.] BIOGRAPHICAL. S3 

came first, At this banquet the saddle of mutton was 
served before the delicacies. Then there was a paper by 
Sir John Bowring on The Chinese and Older Barbarians. 
The commencing number of Lovel the Widower followed. 
George Lewes came next with his first chapters of 
Studies in Animal Life. Then there was Father Prout's 
Inauguration Ode, dedicated to the author of Vanity Fair, 
which should have led the way. I need hardly say 
that Father Prout was the Bev. F. Mahony. Then 
followed Our Volunteers, by Sir John Burgoyne ; A Han 
of Letters of the Last Generation, by Thornton Hunt; 
TJie Search for Sir John Franklin, from a private journal 
of an officer of the Fox, now Sir Allen Young ; and TJie 
First Morning of I860, by Mrs. Archer Olive. The 
number was concluded by the first of those Roundabout 
Papers by Thackeray himself, which became so delightful 
a portion of the literature of The Cornhill Magazine. 

It would be out of my power, and hardly interesting, 
to give an entire list of those who wrote for TJie Cornhill 
under Thackeray's editorial direction. But I may name a 
few, to show how strong was the support which he received. 
Those who contributed to the first number I have named. 
Among those who followed were Alfred Tennyson, Jacob 
Omnium, Lord Houghton, William Eussell, Mrs. Beecher 
Stowe, Mrs. Browning, Bobert Bell, George Augustus Sala, 
Mrs. Gaskell, James Hinton, Mary Howitt, John Kaye, 
Charles Lever, Frederick Locker, Laurence Oliphant, John 
Buskin, Fitzjames Stephen, T. A. Trollope, Henry Thomp- 
son, Herman Merivale, Adelaide Proctor, Matthew Arnold, 
the present Lord Lytton, and Miss Thackeray, now Mrs. 
Bitchie. Thackeray continued the editorship for two yeare 
and four months, namely, up to April, 1862; but, as all 
readers will remember, he continued to write for it till he 



54 THACKERAY. [CHAP 

died, the day before Christmas Day, in 1863. His last 
contribution was, I think, a paper written for and pub- 
lished in the November number, called, " Strange to say 
on Club Paper" in which he vindicated Lord Clyde from 
the accusation of having taken the club stationery home 
with him. It was not a great subject, for no one could 
or did believe that the Field-Marshal had been guilty 
of any meanness ; but the handling of it has made it 
interesting, and his indignation has made it beautiful. 

The magazine was a great success, but justice compels 
me to say that Thackeray was not a good editor. As he 
would have been an indifferent civil servant, an indifferent 
member of Parliament, so was he perfunctory as an 
editor. It has sometimes been thought well to select a 
popular literary man as an editor \ first, because his name 
will attract, and then with an idea that he who can write 
well himself will be a competent judge of the writings of 
others. The first may sell a magazine, but will hardly 
make it good ; and the second will not avail much, unless 
the editor so situated be patient enough to read what is 
sent to him. Of a magazine editor it is required that 
he should be patient, scrupulous, judicious, but above 
all things hard-hearted. I think it may be doubted 
whether Thackeray did bring himself to read the basketfuls 
of manuscripts with which he was deluged, but he pro- 
bably did, sooner or later, read the touching little private 
notes by which they were accompanied, the heartrending 
appeals ( in which he was told that if this or the other little 
article could be accepted and paid for, a starving family 
might be saved from starvation for a month. He tells us 
how he felt on receiving such letters in one of his Round- 
about Papers, which he calls " Thorns in the, cushion." 
" How am I to know/ 7 he says-" though to be sure I 



55 

begin to know now, as I take the letters off the tray, 
which of those envelopes contains a real lona fide letter, 
and which a thorn ? One of the best invitations this year 
I mistook for a thorn letter, and kept it without opening." 
Then he gives the sample of a thorn letter. It is from a 
governess with a poem, and with a prayer for insertion and 
payment. " We have known better days, sir. I have a sick 
and widowed mother to maintain, and little brothers and 
sisters who look to me." He could not stand this, and 
the money would be sent, out of his own pocket, though 
the poem might be postponed, till happily it should be 
lost. 

From such material a good editor could not be made. 
Uor, in truth, do I think that he did much of the editorial 
work. I had once made an arrangement, not with 
Thackeray, but with the proprietors, as to some little 
story. The story was sent back to me by Thackeray 
rejected. Virgimbus puerisque ! That was the gist of 
his objection. There was a project in a gentleman's mind, 
as told in my story, to run away with a married 
woman ! Thackeray's letter was very kind, very regretful, 
full of apology for such treatment to such a contri- 
butor. But Virgini bus puerisqiie ! I was quite sure tha^ 
Thackeray had not taken the trouble to read the story 
himself. Some moral deputy had read it, and dis- 
approving, no doubt properly, of the little project to 
which I have alluded, had incited the editor to use his 
authority. That Thackeray had suffered when he wrote 
it was easy to see, fearing that he was giving pain to one 
he would fain have pleased. I wrote him a long letter in 
return, as full of drollery as I knew how to make it. In 
four or five days there canie a reply in the same spirit, 
boiling over with fun. He had kept my letter by him, not 



00 THACKERAY* [CHAP. 

daring to open it, as lie says that he did with that eligible 
invitation. At last he had given it to one of his girls to 
examine, to see whether the thorn would be too sharp, 
whether I had turned upon him with reproaches. A 
man so susceptible, so prone to work by fits and starts, so 
unmethodical, could not have been a good editor. 

In 1862 he went into the new house which he had 
built for himself at Palace Green. I remember well, while 
this was still being bivlt, how his friends used to discuss 
his imprudence in building it. Though he had done well 
with himself, and had made and was making a large income, 
was he entitled to live in a house the rent of which could 
not be counted at less than from five hundred to six 
hundred pounds a year 2 Before he had been there two 
years, he solved the question by dying, when the house 
was sold for two thousand pounds more than it had cost. 
He himself, in speaking of his project, was wont to 
declare that he was laying out his money in the best way 
he could for the interest of his children ; and it turned 
out that he was right. 

In 1863 he died in the house which he had built, and 
at the period of his death was writing a new novel in 
numbers, called Denis Duval. In The Cornhill, TJie 
Adventures of Philip had appeared. This new enterprise 
was destined for commencement on 1st January, 1864, 
and, though the writer was gone, it kept its promise, as 
far as it went. Three numbers, and what might probably 
have been intended for half of a fourth, appeared. It 
may be seen, therefore, that he by no means held to my 
theory, that the author should see the end of his work 
before the public sees the commencement. But neither 
did Dickens or Mrs. Gaskell, both of whcni died with 
stories not completed, which, when they died, were in the 



L] BIOGRAPHICAL, 67 

course of publication. All the evidence goes against the 
necessity of such precaution. Nevertheless, were I giving 
advice to a tiro in novel writing, I should recommend it. 

"With, the last chapter of Dems Duval was published 
in the magazine a set of notes on the book, taken for the 
most part from Thackeray's own papers, and showing how 
much collateral work he had given to the fabrication of 
his novel. No doubt in preparing other tales, especially 
Esmond, a very large amount of such collateral labour was 
.found necessary. He was a man who did very much of 
such work, delighting to deal in little historical incidents. 
They will be found in almost everything that he did, and 
I do not know that he was ever accused of gross mistakes. 
But I doubt whether on that account he should be called 
a laborious man. He could go down to Winchelsca, 
when writing about the little town, to see in which way 
the streets lay, and to provide himself with what wo call 
local colouring. He could jot down the suggestions, as 
they came to his mind, of his future story. There was an 
irregularity in such work which was to his taste. His 
very notes would be delightful to read, partaking of the 
nature of pearls when prepared only for his own use* 
But he could not bring himself to sit at his desk and do 
an allotted task day after day. He accomplished what 
must be considered as quite a sufficient life's work. He 
had about twenty-five years for the purpose, and that 
which he has left is an ample produce for the time. 
Nevertheless he was a man of fits and starts, who, not 
having been in his early years drilled to method, never 
achieved it in his career. 

He died on the day before Christmas Day, as has been 
said above, very suddenly, in his bed, early in the 
morning, in the fifty-third year of his life. To those who 



58 THACKERAY. [CHAP. 

saw him about in the world there seemed to be no reason 
why he should not continue his career for the next 
twenty years. But those who knew him were so well 
aware of his constant sufferings, that, though they expected 
no sudden catastrophe, they were hardly surprised when 
it came. His death was probably caused by those spasms 
of which he had complained ten years before, in his letter 
to Mr. Beed. On the last day but one of the year, a 
crowd of sorrowing friends stood over his grave as he was 
laid to rest in Kensal Green ; and, as quickly afterwards 
as it could be executed, a bust to his memory was put up 
in "Westminster Abbey. It is a fine work of art, by 
Marochetti ; but, as a likeness, is, I think, less effective 
than that which was modelled, and then given to the 
Garrick Club, by Durham, and has lately been put into 
marble, and now stands in the upper vestibule of the 
club. ^Neither of them, in my opinion, give so accurate 
an idea of the man as a statuette in bronze, by JBoehm, 
of which two or three copies were made. One of them is 
in my possession. It has been alleged, in reference to 
this, that there is something of a caricature in the lengthi- 
ness of the figure, in the two hands thrust into the 
trousers pockets, and in the protrusion of the chin. But 
this feeling has originated in the general idea that any 
face, or any figure, not made by the artist more beautiful 
or more graceful than the original is an injustice. The 
face must be smoother, the pose of the body must be more 
dignified, the proportions more perfect, than in the person 
represented, or satisfaction is not felt. Mr. Boehm has 
certainly not flattered, but, as far as my eye can judge, he 
has given the figure of the man exactly as he used to 
stand before us. I have a portrait of him in crayon, "by 
Samuel Lawrence, as like, but hardly as natural. 



I.] BIOGRAPHICAL. 59 

A little "before his death Thackeray told me that he 
had then succeeded in replacing the fortune which he had 
lost as a young man. He had, in fact, done better, for he 
left an income of seven hundred and fifty pounds behind 
him. 

It has been said of Thackeray that he was a cynic. 
This has been said so generally, that the charge against 
him has become proverbial. This, stated barely, leaves 
one of two impressions on the mind, or perhaps the two 
together, that this cynicism was natural to his character 
and came out in his life, or that it is the characteristic of 
his writings. Of the nature of his writings generally, I 
will speak in the last chapter of this little book. As to 
his personal character as a cynic, I must find room to 
quote the following first stanzas of the little poem which 
appeared to his memory in Punch, from the pen of 
Tom Taylor; 

He was a cynic ! By his life all wrought 
Of generous acts, mild words, and gentle ways j 

His heart wide open, to all kindly thought. 

His hand so quick to give, his tongue to praise ! 

He was a cynic ! You might read it writ 

In that broad brow, crowned with its silver hair ; 

In those blue eyes, with childlike candour lit, 
In that sweet smile his lips were wont to wear ! 

He was a cynic ! By the love that clung 

About him from his children, friends, and kin ; 

By the sharp pain light pen and gossip tongue 
Wrought in him, chafing the soft heart within ! 

The spirit and nature of the man have been caught 
here with absolute truth. A public man should of 
course be judged from his public work. If he wrote as a 
cynic, a point which I will not discuss here* it may be 



60 THACKERAY. [CHAP. 

fair that he who is to be known as a writer should be so 
called. But, as a man, I protest that it would be hard to 
.find an individual farther removed from the character. 
Over and outside his fancy, which was the gift which 
made him so remarkable, a certain feminine softness 
was the most remarkable trait about him. To give some 
immediate pleasure was the great delight of his life, a 
sovereign to a schoolboy, gloves to a girl, a dinner to a 
man, a compliment to a woman. His charity was over- 
flowing. His generosity excessive. I heard once a story 
of woe from a man who was the dear friend of both of us. 
The gentleman wanted a large sum of money instantly, 
something under two thousand pounds, had no natural 
friends who could provide it, but must go utterly to the wall 
without it. Pondering over this sad condition of tilings just 
revealed to mo, I met Thackeray between the two mounted 
heroes at the Horse Guards, and told him the story. " Do 
you mean to say that I am to find two thousand pounds ? " 
he said, angrily, with some expletives. I explained that 
I had not even suggested the doing of anything, only that 
we might discuss the matter. Then there carne over his 
face a peculiar smile, and a wink in his eye, and he 
whispered his suggestion, as though half ashamed of his 
meanness. " I'll go half," he said, " if anybody will do 
the rest." And he did go half, at a day or two's notice, 
though the gentleman was no more than simply a friend. 
I am glad to be able to add that the money was quickly 
repaid. I could tell various stories of the same kind, only 
that I lack space, and that they, if simply added one to 
the other, would lack interest. 

He was no cynic, but he was a satirist, and could 
now and then be a satirist in conversation, hitting very 
hard when he did hit. When he was in America he met 



L] BIOGRAPHICAL. 61 

at dinner a literary gentleman of high character, middle- 
aged, and most dignified deportment. The gentleman was 
one whose character and acquirements stood very high, 
deservedly so, but who, in society, had that air of 
wrapping his toga around him, which adds, or is sup- 
posed to add, many cubits to a man's height. Eut he 
had a broken nose. At dinner he talked much of the 
tender passion, and did so in a manner which stirred 
up Thackeray's feeling of the ridiculous. " What has 
the world come to," said Thackeray out loud to the table, 
"when two broken-nosed old fogies like you and me sit 
talking about love to each other 1 " The gentleman was 
astounded, and could only sit wrapping his toga in silent 
dismay for the rest of the evening. Thackeray then, 
as at other similar times, had no idea of giving pain, but 
when he saw a foible he put his foot upon it, and tried to 
stamp it out. 

Such is my idea of the man whom many call a cynic, 
but whom I regard as one of the most soft-hearted of 
human beings, sweet as Charity itself, who went about 
the world dropping pearls, doing good, and never wilfully 
inflicting a wound. 



CHAPTER II. 

PHASER'S MAGAZINE AND PUNCH. 

How Thackeray commenced his connection with Fraser^s 
Magazine I am unable to say. We know how he had 
come to London with a view to a literary career, and that 
he had at one time made an attempt to earn his bread as 
a correspondent to a newspaper from Paris. It is pro- 
bable that he became acquainted with the redoubtable 
Oliver Yorke, otherwise Dr. Maginn, or some of his staff, 
through the connection which he had thus opened with 
the press. He was not known, or at any rate he was un- 
recognised, by Fraser in January, 1835, in which month an 
amusing catalogue was given of the writers then employed, 
with portraits of them, all seated at a symposium. I can 
trace no article to his pen before November, 1837, when 
the Yellowplusli Correspondence was commenced, though 
it is hardly probable that he should have commenced 
with a work of so much pretension. There had been 
published a volume called My Book, or the Anatomy 
of Conduct, by John Skelton, and a very absurd book 
no doubt it was. We may presume that it contained 
maxims on etiquette, and that it was intended to convey 
in print those invaluable lessons on deportment which, 
as Dickens has told us, were subsequently given by 
Mr. Turveydrop, in the academy kept by him for that 



CHAP, ii.] ERASER'S MAGAZINE AND PUNCH. 63 

purpose. Thackeray took this as his foundation for the 
Fashionable Fax and Polite Annygoats, by Jeanies Yellow- 
plush, with which he commenced those repeated attacks 
against snobbisin which he delighted to make through a 
considerable portion of his literary life. Oliver Yorke 
has himself added four or five pages of his own to 
Thackeray's lucubrations; and with the second, and 
some future numbers, there appeared illustrations by 
Thackeray himself, illustrations at this time not having 
been common with the magazine. Prom all this I gather 
that the author was already held in estimation by Frasefs 
confraternity. I remember well my own delight with 
Yellowplitsli at the time, and how I inquired who was the 
author. It was then that I first heard Thackeray's name. 
The Yellowplush Papers were continued through nine 
numbers. No further reference was made to Mr. Skelton 
and his book beyond that given at the beginning of the 
first number, and the satire is only shown by the attempt 
made by Yellowplush, the footman, to give his ideas 
generally on the manners of noble life. The idea seems 
to be that a gentleman may, in heart and in action, be as 
vulgar as a footman. No doubt he may, but the chances 
are very much that he won't. But the virtue of the 
memoir does not consist in the lessons, but in the general 
drollery of the letters. The " orthogwaphy is inaccurate/' 
as a certain person says in the memoirs, " so inaccurate " 
as to take a positive study to " comprehend " it ; but the 
joke, though old, is so handled as to be very amusing. 
Thackeray soon rushes away from his criticisms on 
snobbism to other matters. There are the details of a card- 
sharping enterprise, in which we cannot but feel that we 
recognise something of the author's own experiences in the 
misfortunes of Mr. Dawkins; there is the Earl of Crab's, 



b - 4 [CHAP, 

and then the first of those attacks which hfe was tempted 
to make on the absurdities of his brethren of letters, and 
the only one which now has the appearance of having 
been ill-natured. His first victims were Dr. Dionysius 
Lardner and Mr. Edward Bulwer Lytton, as he was then, 
"We can surrender the doctor to the whip of the satirist ; 
and for " Sawed wadgeorgeearliittnbuiwig," as the novelist 
is made to call himself, we can well believe that he must 
himself have enjoyed the Yelloioplush Memoirs if he ever 
re-read them in after life. The speech in which he is 
made to dissuade the footman from joining the world of 
letters is so good that I will venture to insert it : " Bullwig 
was violently affected ; a tear stood in his glistening i. 
' Yellowplush/ says he, seizing my hand, ' you are right. 
Quit not your present occupation; black boots, clean 
knives, wear plush all your life, but don't turn literary 
man. Look at me. I am the first novelist in Europa 
I have ranged with eagle wings over the wide regions of 
literature, and perched on every eminence in ifcs turn. I 
have gazed with eagle eyes on the sun of philosophy, and 
fathomed the mysterious depths of the human mind. All 
languages are familiar to me, all thoughts are known to 
me, all men understood by me. I have gathered wisdom 
from the honeyed lips of Plato, as we wandered in the 
gardens of the Academies ; wisdom, too, from the mouth 
of Job Johnson, as we smoked our backy in Seven Dials. 
Such must be the studies, and such is the mission, in this 
world of the Poet-Philosopher. But the knowledge is 
only emptiness ; the initiation is but misery ; the initiated 
a man shunned and "banned by his fellows. Oh ! ' said 
Bullwig, clasping his hands, and throwing his fine i's 
up to the chandelier, * the curse of Pwomethus descends 
upon his wace. - Wath and punishment pursue them from 



IK, PHASER'S MAGAZINE AND PUNCH 65 

generation to generation ! "Wo to genius, the heaven- 
sealer, the fire-stealer ! Wo and thrice-bitter desolation ! 
Earth is the rock on which Zeus, remorseless, stretches 
his withing wictim \ men, the vultures that feed and 
fatten on him. Ai, ai ! it is agony eternal, groaning 
and solitary despair! And you, Yellorplush, rould 
penetrate these mysteries ; you rould raise the awful 
veil, and stand in the tremendous Presence. Berare, 
as you value your peace, berare I Withdraw, rash 
Neophyte ! For heaven's sake ! for heaven's sake I ' 
Here he looked round with agony \ ' give me a glass of 
bwandy-and-water, for this claret is beginning to disagree 
with, me.' " It was thus that Thackeray began that vein 
of satire on his contemporaries of which it may be said 
that the older he grer the more amusing it was, and at 
the same time less likely to hurt the feelings of the 
author satirised. 

The next tale of any length from Thackeray's pen, in 
the magazine, was that called Catherine, which is the 
story taken from the life of a wretched woman called 
Catherine Hayes. It is certainly not pleasant reading, 
and was not rritten with a pleasant purpose. It assumes 
to have come from the pen of Ikey Solomon, of Horse- 
monger Lane, and its object is to show hor disgusting 
rould be the records of thieves, cheats, and murderers if 
their doings and language rere described according to 
their nature instead of being handled in such a ray as 
to create sympathy, and therefore imitation. Bulrer's 
Eugene Aram, Harrison Ainsworth's Jack SJieppard, and 
Dickens' Nancy rere in his mind, and it ras thus that 
he preached his sermon against the selection of such 
heroes and .heroines by the novelists of the day. " Be it 
granted/' he says, in his ej>ilogue ; " Solomon is dull ; but 



68 THACKERAY. [CHAP, 

don't attack Ids morality. He humbly submits that, in 
his poem, no man shall mistake virtue for vice, no man 
shall allow a single sentiment of pity or admiration to 
enter his bosom for any character in the poem, it being 
from beginning to end a scene of unmixed rascality, per- 
formed by persons who never deviate into good feeling." 
The intention is intelligible enough, but such a story 
neither could have been written nor read, certainly not 
written by Thackeray, nor read by the ordinary reader of 
a first-class magazine, had he not been enabled to adorn 
it by infinite wit. Captain Brock, though a brave man, is 
certainly not described as an interesting or gallant soldier; 
but he is possessed of great resources. Captain Macshane, 
too, is a thorough blackguard ; but he is one with a dash 
of loyalty about him, so that the reader can almost sympa- 
thise with him, and is tempted to say that Ikey Solomon 
has not quite kept his promise. 

Catherine appeared in 1839 and 1840. In the latter of 
those years Tlie Shabby Genteel story also came out. Then 
in 1841 there followed The History of Samuel Titmarxh 
and the Great Hogyarty Diamond, illustrated by Samuel's 
cousin, Michael Angelo. But though so announced in 
Fraser, there were no illustrations, and those attached to 
the story in- later editions are not taken from sketches by 
Thackeray. This, as far as I know, was the first use of 
the name Titmarsh, and seems to indicate some intention 
on the part of the author of creating a hoax as to two 
personages, one the writer and the other the illustrator. 
If it were so he must soon have dropped the idea. In 
the last paragraph he has shaken off his cousin Michael. 
The main object of the story is to expose the villany of 
bubble companies, and the danger they run wLo venture 
to have dealings with city matters which they do not 



ii.] PHASER'S MAGAZINE AND PUNCH. 67 

understand. I cannot but think that he altered his mini 
and changed his purpose while he was writing it, actuated 
probably by that editorial monition as to its length. 

In 1842 were commenced The Confession* of George 
Fltz-Boodle, which were continued into 1843. I do not 
think that they attracted much attention, or that they 
have become peculiarly popular since. They are supposed 
to contain the reminiscences of a younger son, who moans 
over his poverty, complains of womankind generally, 
laughs at the world all round, and intersperses his pages 
with one or two excellent ballads. I quote one, written 
for the sake of affording a parody, with the parody along 
with it, because the two together give so strong an ex- 
ample of the condition of Thackeray's mind in regard to 
literary products. The "humbug" of everything, the 
pretence, the falseness of affected sentiment, the remote- 
ness of poetical pathos from the true condition of the 
average minds of men and women, struck him so strongly, 
that he sometimes allowed himself almost to feel, or at 
any rate, to say, that poetical* expression, as being above 
nature, must be unnatural. He had declared to himself 
that all humbug was odious, and should be by him laughed 
down to the extent of his capacity. His Yellowplush, 
his Catl'erine Hayes, his JFitz-Boodle, his Barry Lyndon, 
and Becky Sharp, with many others of this kind, were 
/ill invented and treated for this purpose and after this 
fashion. I shall have to say more on. the same subject 
when I come to The Snob Papers. In this instance he 
wrote a very pretty ballad, The Willow T/W, so good 
that if left by itself it would create no idea of absurdity 
or extravagant pathos in the mind of the ordinary reader, 
simply that he might render his own work absurd by nis 
own parody, 

F 2 



THACKERAY. 



[CHAP. 



THE WILLOW-TREE. 
No. I. 

Know ye the willow-tree, 

Whose gray leaves quiver, 
Whispering gloomily 

To yon pale river ? 
Lady, at eventide 

Wander not near it ! 
They say its branches hide 

A sad lost spirit ! 

Once to the willow-tree 

A maid came fearful, 
Pale seemed her cheek to be, 

Her blue eye tearful. 
Soon as she saw the tree, 

Her steps moved fleeter. 
No one was there ah me ! 

No one to meet her! 

Quick beat her heart to hear t 

The far bells' chime 
Toll from the chapel-tower 

The trysting-time. 
But the red sun went down 

In golden flaine, 
And though she looked around, 

Yet no one came ! 

Presently came the night, 
Sadly to greet her, 

Koon in her silver light, 
Stars in their glitter. 

Then sank the moon away 
Under the billow. 

Still wept the maid alone- 
There by the willow J 



THE WILLOW-TREE. 
No. II. 

Long by the willow-tree 
Vainly they sought her, 

Wild rang the mother's screams 
O'er the gray water. 

" Where is my lovely one ? 
Where is my daughter ? 

House thee, sir constable 

Rouse thee and look. 
Fisherman, bring your net, 

Boatman, your hook. 
Beat in the lily-beds, 

Dive in the brook." 

Vainly the constable 
Shouted and called her. 

Vainly the fisherman 
Beat the green alder. 

Vainly he threw the net. 
Never it hauled her! 

Mother beside the fire 
Sat, her night-cap in ; 

Father in easychair, 
Gloomily nappiog ; 

When at the window-sill 
Came a light tapping. 

And a pale countenance 

Looked through the casement. 
Loud beat the mother's heart, 

Sick with amazement, 
And at the vision which 

Came to surprise her ! 
Shrieking in an agony 

" Lor' ! it's Elizar ! " 



JX] 



ERASER'S MAGAZINE AND PUNCH. 



Through the long darkness, 

By the stream rolling, 
Hour after hour went on 

Tolling and tolling. 
Long was the darkness. 

Lonely and stilly. 
Shrill came the night wind, 

Piercing and chilly. 

Shrill blew the morning breeze, 

Biting and cold. 
Bleak peers the gray dawn 

Over the wold ! 
Bleak over moor and stream 

Looks the gray dawn, 
Gray with dishevelled hair. 
Still stands the willow there 

The maid is gone ! 

D online, Domine 1 
Sing we a litany 
Sing for poor maiden-hearts 

broken and weary 3 
Sing we a litany, 
Wail we and weep we a 
wild miserere! 



Yes, 'twas Elizabeth ; 

Yes, 'twas their girl ; 
Pale was her cheek, and her 

Hair out of curl. 
" Mother I " the loved one, 

Blushing, exclaimed, 
" Let not your innocent) 

Lizzy be blamed. 

Yesterday, going to Aunt 

Jones's to tea, 
Mother, dear mother, I 

Forgot the door-key I 
And as the night was cold, 

And the way steep, 
Mrs. Jones kept me to 

Breakfast and sleep." 

Whether her pa and ma 

Fully believed her, 
That we shall never know. 

Stern they received her ; 
And for the work of that 

Cruel, though short, night,* 
Sent her to bed without 

Tea for a fortnight. 

MOBAL. 

Hey diddle diddlety, 

Cat and the fiddlety, 

Haidens of England take 

caution by she ! 
Let love and suicide 
Never tempt you aside, 
And always remember to take 
the door- key ! 

Mr. George Fitz-Boodle gave his name to other narratives 
beyond his own Confessions. A series of stories was carried 
on by him in JFfewer, called Men's Wives, containing three, 



70 THACKERAY. [CHAP. 

Ravenwtnff, Mr. and Mrs. Frank Berry, and Dennis 
Hoggartijs Wife. The first chapter in Mr. and Mrs. 
Frank Berry describes "The Fight at Slaughter House." 
Slaughter House, as Mr. Yenables reminded us in the 
last chapter, was near Smitlifield in London, the school 
which afterwards became Grey Friars; and the fight 
between Biggs and Berry is the record of one which took 
place in the flesh when Thackeray was at the Charter 
House. But Mr, Fitz-Boodle's name wac afterwards 
attached to a greater work than these, to a work so great 
that subsequent editors have thought him to be unworthy 
of the honour. In the January number, 1844, of Fraser's 
Magazine, are commenced the Memoirs of Barry Lyndon, 
and the authorship is attributed to Mr. Fitz-Boodle. The 
title given in the magazine was The Luck of Barry 
Lyndon : a Romance of the last Centura. By Fitz-Boodle. 
In the collected edition of Thackeray's works the Memoirs 
are given as " Written by himself," and were, I presume, so 
brought out by Thackeray, after they had appeared in 
Fraser. "Why Mr. George Fitz-Boodle should have been 
robbed of so great an honour I do not know. 

In imagination, language, construction, and general 
literary capacity, Thackeray never did anything more re- 
markable than Barry Lyndon. I have quoted the words 
which he put into the mouth of Ikey Solomon, declaring 
that in the story which he has there told he has created 
nothing but disgust for the wicked characters he has pro- 
duced, and that he has " used his humble endeavours to 
cause the public also to hate them." Here, in Barry 
Lyndon, he has, probably unconsciously, acted in direct 
opposition to his own principles. Barry Lyndon is as 
great a scoundrel as the mind of man ever conceived. He 
is one who might have taken as his motto Satan's 



Si.] ff&ASER'S MAGAEltfE AttD PtnsrCH. n 

words; "Evil, be thou my good." And yet his story 
is so written that it is almost impossible not to 
entertain something of a friendly feeling for him. He 
tells his own adventures as a card-sharper, bully, and 
liar; as a heartless wretch, who had neither love nor 
gratitude in his composition ; who had no sense even of 
loyalty ; who regarded gambling as the highest occupation 
to which a man could devote himself, and fraud as always 
justified by success ; a man possessed by all meannesses 
except cowardice. And the reader is so earned away by 
his frankness and energy as almost to rejoice when he 
succeeds, and to grieve with him when he is brought to 
the ground. 

The man is perfectly satisfied as to the reasonableness, 
I might almost say, as to the rectitude, of his own con- 
duct throughout He is one of a decayed Irish family, 
that could boast of good blood. His father had obtained 
possession of the remnants of the property by turning 
Protestant, thus ousting the elder brother, who later on 
becomes his nephew's confederate in gambling. The 
elder brother is true to the old religion, and as the law 
stood in the last century, the younger brother, by changing 
his religion, was able to turn him out. Barry, when a 
boy, learns the slang and the gait of the debauched 
gentlemen of the day. He is specially proud of being 
a gentleman by birth and manners. He had been kid- 
napped, and made to serve as a common soldier, but boasts 
that he was at once fit for the occasion when enabled to 
show as a court gentleman. " I came to it at once," he 
says, " and as if I had never done anything else all my 
life. I had a gentleman to wait upon me, a Trench 
friseur to dress my hair of a morning. I knew the taste 
of chocolate as by intuition almost, and could distinguish 



^2 THACKERAY. [CHAP. 

"between the right Spanish and the Trench before I had 
been a week in my new position. I had rings on all my 
fingers and watches in both my fobs, canes, trinkets, and 
snuffboxes of all sorts. I had the finest natural taste 
for lace and china of any man I ever knew." 

To dress well, to wear a sword with a grace, to carry 
away his plunder with affected indifference, and to appear 
to be equally easy when he loses his last ducat, to be 
agreeable to women, and to look like a gentleman, these 
are his accomplishments. In one place he rises to the 
height of a grand professor in the art of gambling, and 
gives his lessons with almost a noble air. " Play grandly, 
honourably. Be not of course cast down at losing ; but 
above all, be not eager at winning, as mean souls are." 
And he boasts of his accomplishments with so much 
eloquence as to make the reader sure that he believes in 
them. He is quite pathetic over himself, and can describe 
with heartrending words the evils that befall him when 
others use against him successfully any of the arts which 
he practises himself. 

The marvel of the book is not so much that the hero 
should evidently think well of himself, as that the author 
should so tell his story as to appear to be altogether on 
the hero's side. In Catherine, the horrors described are 
most truly disgusting, so much that the story, though 
very clever, is not pleasant reading. The Memoirs of 
Barry Lyndon are very pleasant to read. There is nothing 
to shock or disgust. The style of narrative is exactly 
that which might be used 'as to the exploits of a man 
whom the author intended to represent as deserving of 
sympathy and praise, so that the reader is almost brought 
to sympathise. But I should be doing an injustice to 
Thackeray if I were to leave an impression that he had 



ii.] ffSASEE'S MAGAZINE AND PUNCH. 73 

taught lessons tending to evil practice, such as he supposed 
to have been left by Jack Slieppard or Eugene Aram. 
No one will be tempted to undertake the life of a 
chevalier d' 'Industrie by reading the book, or be made to 
think that cheating at cards is either an agreeable or a 
profitable profession. The following is excellent as a 
tirade in favour of gambling, coming from Eedmond de 
Balibari, as he came to be called during his adventures 
abroad, but it will hardly persuade anyone to be a 
gambler ; 

- "We always played on parole with anybody, any 
person, that is, of honour and noble lineage. We never 
pressed for our winnings, or declined to receive promissory 
notes in lieu of gold. But woe to the man who did not 
pay when the note became due ! Eedmond de Balibari 
was sure to wait upon him with his bill, and I promise 
you there were very few bad debts. On the contrary, 
gentlemen were grateful to us for our forbearance, and 
our character for honour stood imimpeached. In latter 
times, a vulgar national prejudice has chosen to cast a 
slur upon the character of men of honour engaged in the 
profession of play; but I speak of the good old days 
of Europe, before the cowardice of the French aristocracy 
(in the shameful revolution, which served them right) 
brought discredit upon our order. They cry fie now 
upon men engaged in play ; but I should like to know 
how much more honourable tlieir modes of livelihood are 
than ours. The broker of the Exchange, who bulls and 
bears, and buys and sells, and dabbles with lying loans, 
and trades upon state secrets, what is he but a gamester % 
The merchant who deals in teas and tallow, is he any better 1 
His bales of dirty indigo are his dice, his cards come up 
every year instead of every ten minutes, and the sea is his 



green -table. You call the profession of the law an 
honourable one, where a man will lie for any bidder ; lie 
down poverty for the sake of a fee from wealth ; lie clown 
right because wrong is in his brief. You call a doctor an 
honourable man, a swindling quack who does not believe 
in the nostrums which he prescribes, and takes your guinea 
for whispering in your ear that it is a fine morning. And 
yet, forsooth, a gallant man, who sits him down before 
the baize and challenges all comers, his money against 
theirs, his fortune against theirs, is proscribed by your 
modern moral world ! It is a conspiracy of the middle- 
class against gentlemen. It is only the shopkeeper cant 
which is to go down nowadays. I say that play 
was an institution of chivalry. It has been wrecked 
along with other privileges of men of birth. When 
Seingalt engaged a man for six-and-thirty hours without 
leaving the table, do you think he showed no courage? 
How have we had the best blood and the brightest eyes 
too, of Europe throbbing round the table, as I and my 
uncle have held the cards and the bank against some 
terrible player, who was matching some thousands out of 
his millions against our all, which was there on the baize ! 
"When we engaged that daring Alexis Kossloffsky, and 
won seven, thousand louis on a single coup, had we lost 
we should have been beggars the next day ; when lie lost, 
he was only a village and a few hundred serfs in pawn 
the worse. When at Toeplitz the Duke of Courland 
brought fourteen lacqueys, each with four ba.gs of florins, 
and challenged our bank to play against the sealed bags, 
what did we ask 1 ' Sir,' said we, ' we have but eighty 
thousand florins in bank, or two hundred thousand at 
three months. If your highness's bags do not contain 
more than eighty thousand we will meet you.' And we 



IL] ERASER'S MAGAZINE AND PUNCH. ^ 

did ; and after eleven hours' play, in which, our bank was 
at one time reduced to two hundred and three ducats, we 
won seventeen thousand florins of him. Is this not some- 
thing like "boldness? Does this profession not require 
skill, and perseverance, and "bravery? Four crowned 
heads looked on at the game, and an imperial princess, 
when I turned up the ace of hearts and made Paroli, 
burst into tears. ]N T o man on the European Continent 
held a higher position than Redmond Barry then ; and 
when tltG Duke of Corn-land lost he was pleased to say 
that we had won nobly. And so we had, and spent nobly 
what we won." This is very grand, and is put as an 
eloquent man would put it who really wished to defend 
gambling. 

The rascal, of course, comes to a miserable end, but the 
tone of the narrative is continued throughout. He is 
brought to live at last with his old mother in the Fleet 
prison, on a wretched annuity of fifty pounds per annum, 
which she has saved out of the general wreck, and there he 
dies of delirium tremens. For an assumed tone of continued 
irony, maintained through the long memoir of a life, 
never becoming tedious, never unnatural, astounding us 
rather by its naturalness, I know nothing equal to Barry 
Lyndon. 

As one reads, one sometimes is struck by a conviction 
that this or the other writer has thoroughly liked the 
work on which he is engaged. There is a gusto about his 
passages, a liveliness in the language, a spring in the 
motion of the words, an eagerness of description, a lilt, if 
I may so call it, in the progress of the narrative, which 
makes the reader feel that the author has himself greatly 
enjoyed what he has written. He has evidently gone on 
with his work without any sense of weariness, or doubt ; 



76 THACKERAY. [UUAP. 

and the words have come readily to him. So it has been 
with Barry Lyndon. "My mind was filled full with 
those blackguards," Thackeray once said to a friend. It 
is easy enough to see that it was so. In the passage which 
I have above quoted, his mind was running over with the 
idea that a rascal might be so far gone in rascality as to 
be in love with his own trade. 

This was the last of Thackeray's long stones in Fraser. 
I have given by no means a complete catalogue of his 
contributions to the magazine, but I have perhaps men- 
tioned those which are best known. There were many 
short pieces which have now been collected in his works, 
such as Little Travels and Roadside Sketches, and the 
Carmen Lilliense, in which the poet is supposed to be 
detained at Lille by want of money. There are others 
which I think are not to be found in the collected works, 
such as a Box of Novels "by Titmarsh, and Titmarsh in 
the Picture Galleries. After the name of Titmarsh had 
been once assumed it was generally used in the papers 
which he sent to Eraser. 

Thackeray's connection with Punch began in 1843, 
and, as far as I can learn, Miss Ticldetotyf s Lectures on 
English History was his first contribution. They, how- 
ever, have not been found worthy of a place in the 
collected edition. His short pieces during a long period 
of his life were so numerous that to have brought them 
all together would have weighted his more important 
works with too great an amount of extraneous matter. 
The same lady, Miss Tickletoby, gave a series of lectures. 
There was TJie History of the next French Revolution, 
and TJie Wanderings of our Fat Contributor, the first of 
which is, and the latter is not, perpetuated in his works. 
Our old friend Jeames Yellowplush, or De la Pluche, for 



n.] FKASEE'S MAGAZINE AND PUNCH. 77 

we cannot for a moment doubt that lie is the same Jeame?, 
is very prolific, and as excellent in his orthography, his 
sense, and satire, as ever. These papers began with TJie 
Lucky Speculator. He lives in The Albany ; he hires a 
brougham; and is devoted to Miss Emily Plinisey, the 
daughter of Sir George, who had been his master, to the 
great injury of poor Maryanne, the fellow-servant who 
had loved him in his kitchen days. Then there follows 
that wonderful ballad, Jeames of Backley Square. Upon 
this he writes an angry letter to Puncli, dated from his 
chambers in The Albany ; " Has a reglar suscriber to your 
amusing paper, I beg leaf to state that I should never 
have done so had I supposed that it was your 'abbit to 
igspose the mistaries of privit life, and to hinger the 
delligit feelings of umble individyouls like myself." He 
writes in his own defence, both as to Maryanne and to 
the share-dealing by which he had made his fortune ; and 
he ends with declaring his right to the position which 
he holds. "You are corrict in stating that I am of 
hancient Itformin fanily. This is more than Peal can 
say, to whomb I applied for a barnetcy ] but the primmier 
being of low igstraction, natrally stikles for his horder." 
And the letter is signed " Fitzjarnes De la Pluche." Then 
follows his diary, beginning with a description of the way 
in which he rushed into Punch's office, declaring his mis- 
fortunes, when losses had come upon him. " I wish to 
be paid for my contribewtions to your paper. Suckm- 
stances is altered with me." Whereupon he gets a cheque 
upon Messrs. Punip and Aldgate, and has himself carried 
away to new speculations. He leaves his diary behind 
him, and Punch surreptitiously publishes it. There is 
much in the diary which comes from Thackeray's very 
heart. Who does not remember his indignation against 



78 THACKERAY. [CHAP. 

Lord Bareacres 1 " I gave tlie old humbug a few shares 
out of my own pocket. ' There, old Pride/ says I, ' I 
like to see you down on your knees to a footman. There, 
old Pomposity ! Take fifty pounds. I like to see you 
come cringing and begging for it ! ' Whenever I see him 
in a very public place, I take my change for my money. 
I digg him in the ribbs, or clap his padded old shoulders. 
I call him : Bareacres, my old brick/ and I see him wince. 
It does my 'art good." It does Thackeray's heart good to 
pour himself out in indignation against some imaginary 
Bareacres. He blows off his steam with such an eagerness 
that he forgets fora time, or nearly forgets, his cacography. 
Then there are " Jeames on Time Bargings," " J~eam&s on 
the Guage Question/' " Mr. Jeames again," Of all our 
author's heroes Jeames is perhaps the most amusing. 
There is not much in that joke of bad spelling, and we 
should have been inclined to say beforehand, that Mrs. 
Malaprop had clone it so well and so sufficiently, that no 
repetition of it would be received with great favour. Like 
other dishes, it depends upon the cooking. Jeames, with 
his " suckmstances," high or low, will be immortal. 

There were The Travels in London, a long series of them ; 
and then Punch's Prize Novelists, in which Thackeray 
imitates the language and plots of Bulwer, Disraeli, 
Charles Lever, G-. P. E. James, Mrs. Gore, and Cooper, 
the American. They are all excellent ; perhaps Codlingsbj 
is the best. Mendoza, when he is fighting with the 
bargeman, or drinking with Codlingsby, or receiving 
Louis Philippe in his rooms, seems to have come direct 
from the pen of our Premier. Phil Fogerty's jump, and 
the younger and the elder horsemen, as they come riding 
into the story, one in his armour and the other with his 
feathers, have the very savour -and tone of Lever and 



ii.] TEASER'S MAGAZINE AND PUNCH. 79 

James ; but then the savour and the tone are not so 
piquant. I know nothing in the way of imitation to equal 
Codlingsby, if it be not The Tale of Drury Lane, by 
W. S. in the Rejected Addresses, of which it is said that 
Walter Scott declared that he must have written it him- 
self. The scene between Dr. Franklin, Louis XVI., Marie 
Antoinette, and Tatua, the chief of the Nose-rings, as told 
in The Stars and Stripes, is perfect in its way, but it fails 
as being a caricature of Cooper. The caricaturist has 
been carried away beyond and above his model, by his 
own sense of fun. 

Of the ballads which appeared in Punch I will speak 
elsewhere, as I must give a separate short chapter to our 
author's power of versification ; but I must say a word of 
TJie Snob Papers, which were at the time the most popular 
and the best known of all Thackeray's contributions to 
Punch. I think that perhaps they were more charming, 
more piquant, more apparently true, when they came out 
one after another in the periodical, than they are now as 
collected together. I think that one at a time would 
be better than many. And I think that the first half in 
the long list of snobs would have been more manifestly 
snobs to us than they are now with the second half of 
the list appended. In fact, there are too many of them, 
till the reader is driven to tell himself that the meaning 
of it all is that Adam's family is from first to last a 
family of snobs. " First," says Thackeray, in preface, 
" the world was made ; then, as a matter of course, snobs ; 
they existed for years and years, and were no more known 
than America. But presently, ingens patebat tellus, 
the- people became darkly aware that there was such a 
race. Not above five-and-twenty years since, a name, an 
expressive monosyllable., arose to designate that case. That 



80 THACKEBAY. [OHAP, 

name has spread over England like railroads subsequently ; 
snobs are known and recognised throughout an empire on 
which I am given to understand the sun never sets. 
Punch appears at the right season to chronicle their his- 
tory; and the individual comes forth to write that history 
in Punch. 

" I have, and for this gift I congratulate myself with 
a deep and abiding thankfulness, an eye for a snob. If 
the truthful is the beautiful, it is beautiful to study even 
the snobbish ; to track snobs through history as certain 
little dogs in Hampshire hunt out truffles ; to sink shafts 
in society, and come upon rich veins of snob-ore. Snob- 
bishness is like Death, in a quotation from Horace, 
which I hope you never heard, t beating with equal foot 
at poor men's doors, and kicking at the gates of emperors/ 
It is a great mistake to judge of snobs lightly, and think 
they exist among the lower classes merely. An immense 
percentage of snobs, I believe, is to be found in every 
rank of this mortal lifs. You must not judge hastily or 
vulgarly of snobs ; to do so shows that you are yourself 
a snob. I myself have been taken for one. 3 ' 

The state of Thackeray's mind when he commenced 
his delineations of snobbery is here accurately depicted. 
Written, as these papers were, for Punch, and written, as 
they were, by Thackeray, it was a necessity that every 
idea put forth should be given as a joke, and that the 
satire on society in general should be wrapped up in 
burlesque absurdity. But not the less eager and serious 
was his intention. When he tells us, at the end of the 
first chapter, of a certain Colonel Snobley, .whom he met 
at "Bagnigge Wells," as he says, and with whom he 
was so disgusted that he determined ,to drive. the, man out 
of the house, we are well aware that he had met an 



II. 3 FRAfcEft'S MAGAZINE AND PUNCH. Si 

offensive military gentleman, probably at Tunbridge, 
Gentlemen thus offensive, even though tamely offensive, 
were peculiarly offensive to him.. We presume, by wnat 
follows, that this gentleman, ignorantly, for himself most 
unfortunately, spoke of Publicdla. Thackeray was dis- 
gusted, disgusted that such a name should be lugged into 
ordinary conversation at all, and then that a man should 
talk about a name with which he was so little acquainted 
as not to know how to pronounce it. The man was 
therefore a snob, and ought to be put down ; in all which 
I think that Thackeray was unnecessarily hard on the 
man, and gave him too much importance. 

So it was with him in his whole intercourse with snobs, 
as he calls them. He saw something that was dis- 
tasteful, and a man instantly became a snob in his 
estimation. "But you can draw," a man once said to 
him, there having been some discussion on the subject of 
Thackeray's art powers. The man meant no doubt to be 
civil, but meant also to imply that for the purpose needed 
the drawing was good enough, a matter on which he was 
competent to form an opinion. Thackeray instantly put 
the man down as a snob for flattering him. The little 
courtesies of the world and the little discourtesies became 
snobbish to him. A man could not wear his hat, or 
carry his umbrella, or mount his horse, without falling 
into some error of snobbism before his hypercritical 
eyes. St. Michael would have carried his armour amiss, 
and St. Cecilia have been snobbish as she twanged her 
harp. 

I fancy that a policeman considers that every man 
in the street would be properly "run in," if only all 
the truth about the man had been known. The tinker 
iiunks that, every pot is ixnsoun.d. The, cobbler doubts the 

a 



82 THACKERAY. [CHAP. 

stability of every shoe. So at last it grew to be the 
case with Thackeray. There was more hope that the 
city should be saved because of its ten just men, than 
for society, if society were to depend on ten who were 
not snobs. All this arose from the keenness of his 
vision into that which was really mean. But that 
keenness became so aggravated by the intenseness of his 
search that the slightest speck of dust became to his eyes 
as a foul stain. Publicola, as we saw, damned one poor 
man to a wretched immortality, and another was called 
pitilessly over the coals, because he had mixed a grain of 
flattery with a bushel of truth. Thackeray tells us that 
he was born to hunt out snobs, as certain dogs are trained 
to find truffles. But we can imagine that a dog, very 
energetic at producing truffles, and not finding them as 
plentiful as his heart desired, might occasionally produce 
roots which were not genuine, might be carried on in 
his energies till to his senses every fungus-root became a 
truffle. I think that there has been something of this 
with our author's snob-hunting, and that his zeal was at 
last greater than his discrimination. 

The nature of the task which came upon him made 
this fault almost unavoidable. When a hit is made, say 
with a piece at a theatre, or with a set of illustrations, or 
with a series of papers on this or the other subject, when 
something of this kind has suited the taste of the moment, 
and gratified the public, there is a natural inclination on 
the part of those who are interested to continue that 
which has been found to be good. It pays and it pleases, 
and it seems to suit everybody. Then it is continued 
usque ad nauseam. "We see it in everything. "When the 
king said he liked partridges, partridges were served to 
every day. The world 'was pleased with certain 



yr.] FEASEB'S MAGAZINE AND PUNCH. 83 

ridiculous portraits of its big men. The big men were 
soon used up, and the little men had to be added. 

We can imagine that even Punch may occasionally be 
at a loss for subjects wherewith to delight its readers. In 
fact, TJie Snob Papers were too good to be brought to an 
end, and therefore there were forty-five of them. A 
dozen would have been better. As he himself says in his 
last paper, "for a mortal year we have been together 
flattering and abusing the human race." It was exactly 
that. Of course we know, everybody always knows, 
that a bad specimen of his order may be found in every 
division of society. There may be a snob king, a snob 
parson, a snob member of parliament, a snob grocer, tailor, 
goldsmith, and the like. But that is not what has been 
meant. We did not want a special satirist to tell us what 
we all knew before. Had snobbishness been divided for 
us into its various attributes and characteristics, rather 
than attributed to various classes, the end sought, the 
exposure, namely, of the evil, would have been better 
attained. The snobbishness of flattery, of falsehood, of 
cowardice, lying, time-serving, money-worship, would have 
been perhaps attacked to a better purpose than that of 
kings, priests, soldiers, merchants, or men of letters. The 
assault as made by Thackeray seems to have been made 
on the profession generally. 

The paper on clerical snobs is intended to be essentially 
generous, and is ended by an allusion to certain old clerical 
friends which has a sweet tone of tenderness in it. " How 
should he who knows you, not respect you or your calling 1 
May this pen never write a pennyworth again if it ever 
easts ridicule upon either." But in the meantime he has 
thrown his stone at the covetousness of bishops, because 
pf certain Irish prelates who died rich- many years before 



84 THACKERAY. 

he wrote. The insinuation is that bishops generally tako 
more of the loaves and fishes than they ought, whereas 
the fact is that "bishops' incomes are generally so insuf- 
ficient for the requirements demanded of them, that a 
feeling prevails that a clergyman to be fit for a bishopric 
should have a private income. He attacks the snobbish- 
ness of the universities, showing us how one class of 
young men consists of fellow-commoners, who wear lace 
and drink wine with their meals, and another class con- 
sists of sizars, or servitors, who wear badges, as being 
poor, and are never allowed to take their food with their 
fellow-students. That arrangements fit for past times are 
not fit for these is true enough. Consequently they 
should gradually be changed ; and from day to day are 
changed. But there is no snobbishness in this. Was the 
fellow-commoner a snob when he acted in accordance with 
the custom of his rank and standing 1 ? or the sizar who 
accepted aid in achieving that education which he could 
not have got without it ? or the tutor of the college, who 
carried out the rules entrusted to him 1 ? There are two 
military snobs, Eag and Famish. One is a swindler and 
the other a debauched young idiot. No doubt they are 
both snobs, and one has been, while the other is, an officer. 
But there is, I think, not an unfairness so much as an 
absence of intuition, in attaching to soldiers especially two 
vices to which all classes are open. Eag was a gambling 
snob, and Tarnish a drunken snob, but they were not 
specially military snobs. There is a chapter devoted to 
dinner-giving snobs, in which I think the doctrine laid 
down will not hold water, and therefore that the snobbism 
imputed is not proved. " Your usual style of meal," says 
the satirist " that is plenteous, comfortable, and in its 
perfection, should be that to which you welcome 



ix.] FRASER'S MAGAZINE AND PUNCH. S5 

friends." Then there is something said about the " Brum- 
magem plate pomp," and we are told that it is right that 
dukes should give grand dinners, but that we, of the 
middle class, should entertain our friends with the sim- 
plicity which is customary with us. In all this there is, 
I think, a mistake. The duke gives a grand dinner be- 
cause he thinks his friends will like it, sitting down when 
alone with the duchess, we may suppose, with a retinue and 
grandeur less than that which is arrayed for gala occasions. 
So is it with Mr. Jones, who is no snob because he pro- 
vides a costly dinner, if he can afford it. He does it 
because he thinks his friends will like it. It may be that 
the grand dinner is a bore, and that the leg of mutton 
with plenty of gravy and potatoes all hot, would be nicer. 
I generally prefer the leg of mutton myself. But I do not 
think that snobbery is involved in the other. A man, no 
doubt, may be a snob in giving a dinner. I am not a snob 
because for the occasion I eke out my own dozen silver 
forks with plated ware ; but if I make believe that my 
plated ware is true silver, then I am a snob. 

In that matter of association with our betters, we will 
for the moment presume that gentlemen and ladies with 
titles or great wealth are our betters, great and delicate 
questions arise as to what is snobbery, and what is not, 
in speaking of which Thackeray becomes very indignant, 
and explains the intensity of his feelings as thoroughly by 
a charming little picture as by his words. It is a picture 
of Queen Elizabeth as she is about to trample with dis3ain 
on the coat which that snob Haleigh is throwing for her 
use on the mud before her. This is intended to typify the 
low parasite nature of the Englishman which has been 
described in the previous page or two. " And of these 
calm moralists," it matters not for our present purpose 



86 ' THACKERAY. [CHAP. 

who were the moralists in question," is there one I wonder 
whose heart would not throb with pleasure if he could "be 
seen walking arm-in-arm with a couple of dukes down 
Pall Mall? No; it is impossible, in our condition of 
society, not to be sometimes a snob." And again : " How 
should it be otherwise in a country where lordoiatry is 
part of our creed, and where our children are brought up 
to respect the ' Peerage' as the Englishman's second 
Bible." Then follows the wonderfully graphic picture of 
Queen Elizabeth and Kaleigh. 

In all' this Thackeray has been carried away from the 
truth by his hatred for a certain meanness of which there 
are no doubt examples enough. As for Baleigh, I think 
wo have always sympathised with the young man, instead 
of despising him, because he felt on the impulse of the 
moment that nothing was too goocl for the woman and the 
queen combined. The idea of getting something in return 
for his coat could hardly have come so quick to him as 
that impulse in favour of royalty and womanhood. If one 
of us to-day should see the queen passing, would he not 
raise his hat, and assume, unconsciously, something of an 
altered demeanour because of his reverence for majesty 1 
In doing so he would have no mean desire of getting any- 
thing. The throne and its occupant are to him honour- 
able, and "he honours them. There is surely no greater 
mistake than to suppose that reverence is snobbishness, 
I meet a great man in the street, and some chance having 
brought me to his knowledge, he stops and says a word to 
me. Am I a snob because I feel myself to be graced by 
his notice? Surely not. And if his acquaintance goes 
further and he asks me to dinner, am I not entitled so 
far to think well of myself because I have been found 
worthy of his society I 



n.] TEASER'S MAGAZINE AND PUNCH. 87 

They who have raised themselves in the world, and 
they, too, whose position has enabled them to receive all 
that estimation can give, all that society can furnish, all 
that intercourse with the great can give, are more likely 
to be pleasant companions than they who have been less 
fortunate. That picture of two companion dukes in 
Pall Mall is too gorgeous for human eye to endure, A 
man would be scorched to cinders by so much light, as he 
would be crushed by a sack of sovereigns even though he 
might be allowed to have them if he could carry them 
away. But there can be no doubt that a peer taken at 
random as a companion would be preferable to a clerk 
from a counting-house, taken at random. The clerk 
might turn out a scholar on your hands, and the peer 
no better than a poor spendthrift ; but the chances are 
the other way. 

A tufthunter is a snob, a parasite is a snob, the man 
who allows the manhood within him to be awed by a 
coronet is a snob. The man who worships mere wealth is 
a snob. But so also is he who, in fear lest he should ba 
called a snob, is afraid to seek the acquaintance, or if it 
come to speak of the acquaintance, of those whose 
acquaintance is manifestly desirable. In all this I feel 
that Thackeray was carried beyond the truth by his intense 
desire to put down what is mean. 

It is in truth well for us all to know what constitutes 
snobbism, and I think that Thackeray, had he not been 
driven to dilution and dilatation, could have xold us. 
If you will keep your hands from picking and stealing, 
and your tongue from evil speaking, lying, and slandering, 
you will not be a snob. The lesson seems to be simple, 
and perhaps a little trite, but if you look into it, it will 
be found to contain nearly all that is necessary. 



But the excellence of each individual picture as it is 
drawn is not the less striking because there may he found 
some fault with the series as a whole. What can excel 
the telling of the story of Captain Shindy at his club, 
which is, I must own, as - true as it is graphic. Captain 
Shindy is a real snob. "'Look at it, sir; is it cooked? 
Smell it, sir. Is it meat fit for a gentleman 1 ; he roars 
out to the steward, who stands trembling before him, 
and who in vain tells him that the Bishop of Bullock- 
smithy has just had three from the same loin." The 
telling as regards Captain Shindy is excellent, but the 
sidelong attack upon the episcopate is cruel. "All the 
waiters in the club are huddled round the captain's 
mutton-chop. He roars out the most horrible curses 
at John for not bringing the pickles. He utters the most 
dreadful oaths because Thomas has not arrived with the 
Harvey sauce. Peter comes tumbling with the water- 
jug over Jeames, who is bringing the ' glittering canisters 
with bread.* 



" Poor Mrs, Shindy and the children are, meanwhile, 
in dingy lodgings somewhere, waited upon by a charity 
girl in pattens." 

The visit to Castle Carabas, and the housekeeper's 
description of the wonders of ths family mansion, is as 
good. " ' The Side Entrance and 'All/ says the house- 
keeper. 'The , halligator hover the mantelpiece was 
brought home by Hadmiral St. Michaels, when a capting 
with Lord Hanson. The harms on the cheers is tho 
harms of the Carabas family. The great 'all is seventy 
feet in lenth, fifty-six in breath, and thirty-eight feet 
'igh. The carvings of the chimlies, representing the 



11.] LEASER'S MAGAZINE AND PUNCH. SD 

buth of Venus and 'Ercules and 'Eyelash, is by Van 
Chislum, the most famous sculpture of his hage and 
country. The ceiling, by Calimanco, represents Painting, 
Harchitecture, and Music, the naked female figure with 
the barrel-organ, introducing George, first Lord Carabas, 
to the Temple of the Muses. The winder ornaments is by 
Vanderputty. The floor is Patagonian marble ; and the 
chandelier in the centre was presented to Lionel, second 
marquis, by Lewy the Sixteenth, whose } eacl was cut 
hoff in the French Kevolution. "We now henter tha 
South Gallery," etc. etc. All of which is very good fun, 
with a dash of truth in it also as to the snobbery; 
only in this it will be necessary to be quite sure 
where the snobbery lies. If my Lord Carabas has a 
"buth of Venus," beautiful for all eyes to see, there 
is no snobbery, only good-nature, in the showing it ; nor 
is there snobbery in going to see it, if a beautiful " buth 
of Venus " has charms for you. If you merely want to 
see the inside of a lord's house, and the lord is puffed 
up with the pride of showing his, then there will be two 
snobs. 

Of all those papers it may be said that each has that 
quality of a pearl about it which in the previous chapter 
I endeavoured to explain. In each some little point is 
made in excellent language, so as to charm by its neat- 
ness, incision, and drollery* But TJte Snob Papers 
had better be read separately, and not taken in the 
lump. 

Thackeray ceased to write for Punch in 1852, either 
entirely or almost so. 



CHAPTER III 

VANITY FAIB, 

SOMETHING has "been said, in the biographical chapter, of 
the way in which Vanity Fair was produced, and of the 
period in the author's life in which it was written. He 
had become famous, to a limited extent, by the exquisite 
nature of his contributions to periodicals ; but he desired 
to do something larger, something greater, something, 
perhaps, less ephemeral. Eor though 'Barry Lyndon and 
others have not proved to be ephemeral, it was thus that 
he regarded them. In this spirit he went to work and 
wrote Vanity Fair, 

It may be as well to speak first of the faults which were 
attributed to it. It was said that the good people were 
all fools, and that the clever people were all knaves. 
When the critics, the talking critics as well as the writing 
critics, began to discuss Vanity Fair, there had already 
grown up a feeling as to Thackeray as an author that he 
was one who had taken up the business of castigating the 
vices of the world. Scott had dealt with the heroics, 
whether displayed in his Flora Maclvors or Meg Merrilieses, 
in his Ivanhoes or Ochiltrees. Miss Edgeworth had been 
moral; Miss Austen conventional; Bulwer had been 
poetical and sentimental; Marryat and Lever had been 
funny and pugnacious, always with a dash of gallantry, 



CHAP, in.] VANITY FATE. 91 

displaying funny naval and funny military life; and 
Dickens had already become great in painting the virtues 
of the lower orders. But by all these some kind of virtue 
had been sung, though it might be only the virtue of 
riding a horse or fighting a duel. Even Eugene Aram 
and Jack Sheppard, with whom Thackeray found so much 
fault, were intended to be fine fellows, though they broke 
into houses and committed murders. The primary object 
of all those writers was to create an interest by exciting 
sympathy. To enhance our sympathy personages were 
introduced who were very vile indeed, as Bucklaw, in 
the guise of a lover, to heighten our feelings for Ravens- 
wood and Lucy; as Wild, as a thief -taker, to make us 
more anxious for the saving of Jack ; as Ralph Nickleby, 
to pile up the pity for his niece Kate. But each of these 
novelists might have appropriately begun with an Arma 
virumque cano. The song was to be of something god- 
like, even with a Peter Simple. With Thackeray it had 
been altogether different. Alas, alas ! the meanness of 
human wishes ; the poorness of human results ! That 
had been his tone. There can be no doubt that the 
heroic had appeared contemptible to him, as being untrue. 
The girl who had deceived her papa and mamma seemed 
more probable to him than she who perished under 
the willow-tree from sheer love, as given in the last 
chapter. " Why sing songs that are false? Why tell 
of Lucy Ashtons and Kate Nicklebys, when pretty 
girls, let them be ever so beautiful, can be silly 
and sly? Why pour philosophy out of the mouth 
of a fashionable young gentleman like Pelham, seeing 
that young gentlemen of that sort rarely, or we may say 
never, talk after that fashion? Why make a house- 
breaker a gallant charming young fellow, the truth being 



92 TEACREBAY. [CHAP. 

that housebreakers as a rule are as objectionable in their 
manners as they are in their morals ? Thackeray's mind 
had in truth worked in this way, and he had become a 
satirist. That had been all very well for Fraser and 
Punchj but when his satire was continued through a 
long novel, in twenty-four parts, readers, who do in 
truth like the heroic better than the wicked, began to" 
declare that this writer was no novelist, but only a 
cynic. 

Thence the question arises what a novel should be, 
which I will endeavour to discuss very shortly in a 
later chapter. But this special fault was certainly found 
with Vanity Fair at the time. Heroines should not only 
be beautiful, but should be endowed also with a quasi 
celestial grace, grace of dignity, propriety, and reticence, 
A heroine should hardly want to be married, the arrange- 
ment being almost too mundane, and, should she be 
brought to consent to undergo such bond, because of its 
acknowledged utility, it should be at some period so dis- 
tant as hardly to present itself to the mind as a reality. 
Eating and drinking should be altogether indifferent to her, 
and her clothes should be picturesque rather than smart, 
and that from accident rather than design. Thackeray's 
Amelia does not at all come up to the description here given. 
She is proud of having a lover, constantly declaring to 
herself and to others that he is "the greatest and the best of 
men," whereas the young gentleman is, in truth, a very 
little man. She is not at all indifferent as to her finery, nor, 
as we see incidentally, to enjoying her suppers at Vaux- 
hall. She is anxious to be married, and as soon as 
possible. A hero too should be dignified and of a noble 
presence ; a man who, though he may be as poor as 
Nicholas Mekleby, should nevertheless be beautiful on all 



in.] VA1HTY FAIE. 33 

occasions, and never deficient in readiness, address, or 
self-assertion. Vanity Fair is specially declared by the 
author to be " a novel without a hero," and therefore we 
have hardly a right to complain of deficiency of heroic 
conduct in any of the male characters. But Captain 
Dobbin does become the hero, and is deficient. Why 
was he called Dobbin, except to make him ridiculous 1 
Why is he so shamefully ugly, so shy, so awkward? 
Why was he the son of a grocer? Thackeray in sc 
depicting him was determined to run counter to the 
recognised taste of novel readers. And then again there 
was the feeling of another great fault. Let there be the 
virtuous in a novel and let there be the vicious, the 
dignified and the undignified, the sublime and the ridicu- 
lous, only let the virtuous, the dignified, and the sublime 
be in the ascendant. Edith Bellenden, and Lord Evan- 
dale, and Morton himself would be too stilted, were 
they not enlivened by Manse, and Cuddie, and Pound- 
text. But here, in this novel, the vicious and the 
absurd have been made to be of more importance than 
the good and the noble. Becky Sharp and Eawdon 
Crawley are the real heroine and hero of the story. It is 
with them that the reader is called upon to interest 
himself. It is of them that he will think when he is 
reading the book. It is by them that he will judge the 
book when he has read it. There was no doubt a feeling 
with the public that though satire may be very well in its 
place, it should not be made the backbone of a work so long 
and so important as this. A short story such as Catherine 
or Barry Lyndon might be pronounced to have been called 
for by the iniquities of an outside world; but this 
seemed to the readers to have been addressed almost to 
t&smselves. Isfow men and women like to be painted a$ 



91 THACKERAY. [CHAP.. 

Titian would paint them, or Eaffaelle, not as Rembrandt, 
or even Rubens. 

Whether the ideal or the real is the best form of 
a novel may be questioned, but there can be no doubt 
that as there are novelists who cannot descend from the 
bright heaven of the imagination to walk with their feet 
upon the earth, so there are others to whom it is not 
given to soar among clouds. The reader must please him- 
self, and make his selection if he cannot enjoy both. 
There are many who are carried into a heaven of pathos 
by the woes of a Master of Ravenswood, who fail alto- 
gether to be touched by the enduring constancy of a 
Dobbin. There are others, and I will not say but they 
may enjoy the keenest delight which literature can give, 
who cannot employ their minds on fiction unless it be 
conveyed in poetry. With Thackeray it was essential 
that the representations made by him should be, to his 
own thinking, lifelike. A Dobbin seemed to him to be 
such a one as might probably be met with in the world, 
whereas to his thinking a Ravenswood was simply a 
creature of the imagination. He would have said of 
such, as we would say of female faces by Raffaelle, that 
women would like to be like them, but are not like them. 
Men might like to be like Ravenswood, and women may 
dream of men so formed and constituted, but such men 
do not exist. Dobbins do, and therefore Thackeray chose 
to write of a Dobbin. 

So also of the preference given to Becky Sharp and 
to Rawdon Crawley. Thackeray thought that more can 
be done by exposing the vices than extoHing the virtues 
of mankind. No doubt he had a more thorough belief 
in the one than in the other. The Dobbins he did en- 
Qonfttor seldom ; the Rawdon Crawleys very often, g 



in.] VANITY FAIR. 95 

saw around him so much that was mean J He was hurt 
so often by the little vanities of people ! It was thus 
that he was driven to that overthoughtfulness about snobs 
of which I have spoken in the last chapter. It thus be- 
came natural to him to insist on the thing which he 
hated with unceasing assiduity, and only to break out 
now and again into a rapture of love for the true nobility 
which was dear to him, as he did with the character of 
Captain Dobbin. 

It must be added to all this that, before he has done 
with his snob or his knave, he will generally weave in 
some little trait of humanity by which the sinner shall 
be relieved from the absolute darkness of utter iniquity. 
He deals with no Yarneys or Deputy-Shepherds, all 
villany and all lies, because the snobs and knaves he had 
seen had never been all snob or all knave. Even Shindy 
probably had some feeling for the poor woman he left at 
home. Eawdon Crawley loved his wicked wife dearly, 
and there were moments even with her in which some 
redeeming trait half reconciles her to the reader. 

Such were the faults which were found in Vanity Fair-, 
but though the faults were found freely, the 'book was 
read by all. Those who are old enough can well remember 
the effect which it had, and the welcome which was given 
to the different numbers as they appeared. Though the 
story is vague and wandering, clearly commenced without 
any idea of an ending, yet there is something in the 
telling which makes every portion of it perfect in itself. 
There are absurdities in it which would not be admitted 
to anyone who had not a peculiar gift of making even his 
absurdities delightful. No schoolgirl who ever lived 
would have thrown back her gift-book, as Eebecca did the 
" dixonary/ 5 out of the carriage window as, she was taken 



Ot THACKERAY. [CHAP.. 

Titian would paint them, or Raffaelle, not as Rembrandt, 
or even Rubens. 

Whether the ideal or the real is the best form of 
a novel may be questioned, but there can be no doubt 
that as there are novelists who cannot descend from the 
bright heaven of the imagination to walk with their feet 
upon the earth, so there are others to whom it is not 
given to soar among clouds. The reader must please him- 
self, and make his selection if he cannot enjoy both. 
There are many who are carried into a heaven of pathos 
by the woes of a Master of Ravenswood, who fail alto- 
gether to be touched by the enduring constancy of a 
Dobbin. There are others, and I will not say but they 
may enjoy the keenest delight which literature can give, 
who cannot employ their minds on fiction unless it be 
conveyed in poetry. With Thackeray it was essential 
that the representations made by him should be, to his 
own thinking, lifelike. A Dobbin seemed to him to be 
such a one as might probably be met with in the world, 
whereas to his thinking a Ravenswood was simply a 
creature of the imagination. He would have said of 
such, as we would say of female faces by Raffaelle, that 
women would like to be like them, but are not like them. 
Men might like to be like Ravenswood, and women may 
dream of men so formed and constituted, but such men 
do not exist. Dobbins do, and therefore Thackeray chose 
to write of a Dobbin. 

So also of the preference given to Becky Sharp and 
to Rawdon Crawley. Thackeray thought that more can 
be done by exposing the vices than extolling the virtues 
of mankind. ^To doubt he had a more thorough belief 
in the one than in the other. The Dobbins he did en- 
? seldom ; tlxe Rawdon^ Crawleys very often. He 



in.] VANITY FAIR. 95 

saw around liim so much that was mean j He was hurt 
so often by the little vanities of people ! It was thus 
that he was driven to that overthoughtfulness about snobs 
of which I have spoken in the last chapter. It thus be- 
came natural to him to insist on the thing which he 
hated with unceasing assiduity, and only to break out 
now and again into a rapture of love for the true nobility 
which was dear to him, as he did with the character of 
Captain Dobbin. 

It must be added to all this that, before he has done 
with his snob or his knave, he will generally weave in 
some little trait of humanity by which the sinner shall 
be relieved from the absolute darkness of utter iniquity. 
He deals with no Yarneys or Deputy-Shepherds, all 
villany and all lies, because the snobs and knaves he had 
seen had never been all snob or all knave. Even Shindy 
probably had some feeling for the poor woman he left at 
home. Eawdon Crawley loved his wicked wife dearly, 
and there were moments even with her in which some 
redeeming trait half reconciles her to the reader. 

Such were the faults which were found in Vanity Fair; 
but though the faults were found freely, the "book was 
read by all. Those who are old enough can well remember 
the effect which it had, and the welcome which was given 
to the different numbers as they appeared. Though the 
story is vague and wandering, clearly commenced without 
any idea of an ending, yet there is something in the 
telling which makes every portion of it perfect in itself. 
There are absurdities in it which would not be admitted 
to anyone who had not a peculiar gift of making even his 
absurdities delightful. No schoolgirl who ever lived 
would have thrown back her gift-book, as Eebecca did the 
" dixonary," out of the carriage window as. she was taken 



96 THACKEKAY. [CHIP, 

away from school. But who does not love that scene 
with which the novel commences? How could such a 
girl as Amelia Osborne have got herself into such society 
as that in which we see her at Vauxhall ? But we for- 
give it all because of the telling. And then there is 
that crowning absurdity of Sir Pitt Crawley and his 
establishment. 

I never could understand how Thackeray in his first 
serious attempt could have dared to subject himself and 
Sir Pitt Crawley to the critics of the time. Sir Pitt is 
a baronet, a man of large property, and in Parliament, to 
whom Becky Sharp goes as a governess at the end of 
a delightful visit with her friend Amelia Sedley, on 
leaving Miss Pinkerton's school. The Sedley carriage 
takes her to Sir Pitt's door. "When the bell was 
rung a head appeared between the interstices of the 
dining-room shutters, and the door was opened by 
a man in drab breeches and gaiters, with a dirty 
old coat, a foul old neckcloth lashed round his bristly 
neck, a shining bald head, a leering red face, a pair 
of twinkling gray eyes, and a mouth perpetually on the 
grin. 

"'This Sir Pitt Crawley'sT says John from the 
box. 

" * E'es,' says the man at the door with a nod. 

" * Hand down these 'ere trunks there,' said John. 

" * Hand 'em down yourself/ said the porter." 
But John on the box declines to do this, as he cannot 
leave his horses. 

"The bald-headed man, taking his hands out of his 
breeches' pockets, advanced on this summons, and throwing 
Miss Sharp's trunk over his shoulder, carried it into the 
e," Then Becky is shown into the ]iouse ; and, a 



in.] VANITY FAIE. CT 

dismantled dining-room is described, into which she is led 
by the dirty man with the trunk. 

Two kitchen chairs, and a round table, and an attenuated old 
poker and tongs, were, however, gathered round the fireplace, as 
was a saucepan over a feeble, sputtering fire. There was a bit of 
cheese and bread and a tin candlestick on the table, and a little 
black porter in a pint pot. 

" Had your dinner, I suppose ? " This was said by him of the 
bald head. " It is not too warm for you ? Like a drop of 
beer ? " 

" Where is Sir Pitt Crawley ? " said Miss Sharp majestically. 

" He, he ! I'm Sir Pitt Crawley. Eek'lect you owe me a pint 
for bringing down your luggage. He, he ! ask Tinker if I ain't." 

The lady addressed as Mrs. Tinker at this moment made her 
appearance, with a pipe and a paper of tobacco, for which she 
had been despatched a minute before Miss Sharp's arrival ; and 
she handed the articles over to Sir Pitt, who had taken his seat 
by the fire. 

" Where's the farden?" said he. "I gave you three-half- 
pence ; where's the change, old Tinker ? " 

" There," replied Mrs. Tinker, flinging down the coin. " It's 
only baronets as cares about farthings." 

Sir Pitt Crawley has always been to me a stretch of 
audacity which I have been unable to understand. But 
it has been accepted ; and from this commencement of 
Sir Pitt Crawley have grown the wonderful characters 
of the Crawley family, old Miss Crawley, the worldly, 
wicked, pleasure-loving aunt, the Eev. Bute Crawley and 
his wife, who are quite as worldly, the sanctimonious elder 
son, who in truth is not less so, and Rawdon, who 
ultimately becomes Becky's husband, who is the bad 
hero of the book, as Dobbin is the good hero. They 
are admirable ; but it is quite clear that Thackeray had 
known nothing of what was coming about them when he 



93 THACKERAY. [CHAP. 

caused Sir Pitt to eat his tripe with Mrs. Tinker in the 
London dining-room. 

There is a double story running through the book, 
the parts of which are but lightly woven together, of 
which the former tells us the life and adventures of that 
singular young woman Becky Sharp, and the other the 
troubles and ultimate success of our noble hero Captain 
Dobbin. Though it be true that readers prefer, or pretend 
to prefer, the romantic to the common in their novels, 
and complain of pages which are defiled with that which 
is low, yet I find that the absurd, the ludicrous, and even 
the evil, leave more impression behind them than the 
grand, the beautiful, or even the good. Dominie Sampson, 
Dugald Dalgetty, and Bothwell are, I think, more re- 
membered than Fergus Maclvor, than Ivanhoe himself, 
or Mr. Butler the minister. It certainly came to pass 
that, in spite of the critics, Becky Sharp became the first 
attraction in Vanity Fair. When we speak now of 
Vanity Fair, it is always to Becky that our thoughts 
recur. She has made a position for herself in the world 
of fiction, and is one of our established personages. 

I have already said how ^e_left_^chool, throwing the 
"dixonary" ouf'oFfEe window, like dusTlForrTherTe'et, 
.and was taken to spend a few, halcyon weeks with her 
friend Amelia Sedley, at the Sedley mansion in "Russell 
Square. There she meets a brother Sedley home from 
India, the immortal Jos, at whom she began to set 
her hitherto untried cap. Here we become acquainted 
both with the Sedley and with the Osborne families, 
with all their domestic affections and domestic snobbery, 
and have to confess that the snobbery is stronger than the 
affection. As we desire to love Amelia Sedley, we wish 
that the people around her were less vulgar or less selfish 



m.J VANITY FAIR. 99 

especially we wish it in regard to that handsome young 
fellow, George Osborne, whom she loves with her whole 
heart. But with Jos Sedley we are inclined to be con- 
tent, though he be fat, purse-proud, awkward, a drunkard, 
and a coward, because we do not want anything better for 
Becky. Becky does not want anything better for herself, 
because the man has money. She has been born a pauper. 
She knows herself to be but ill qualified to set up as a 
beauty, though by dint of cleverness she does succeed in 
that afterwards. SJie_has^ no advantages in regard to 

friends or family as she enters lifeT "SEe'must' earn her 

bread for herself. Young as she is, she loves money, and 
has a great idea of the power of money. Therefore, 
though Jos is distasteful at all points, she instarLtly"makes 
her attack. She fails, however, at any rate for the present. 
She never becomes his wife, but at last she succeeds in 
gettiggjaayne of his money. But before that time comes 
she has many a suffering to endure, and many a triumph 
to enjoy. 

She goes to Sir Pitt Crawley as governess for his 
second family, and is taken down to Queen's Crawley in 
the country. There her cleverness prevails, even with 
the baronet, of whom I have just given Thackeray's por- 
trait. She keeps his accounts, and writes his letters, and 
helps him to save money ; she reads with the elder sister 
books they ought not to have read \ she flatters the sancti- 
monious son. In point of fact, she becomes all in all at 
Queen's Crawley, so that Sir Pitt himself falls in love 
with her, for there is reason to think that Sir Pitt may 
soon, become again a widower. But there also came down 
to the baronet's house, on an occasion of general enter- 
taining, Captain Tlawdon Crawley. Of course Becky sets 

her cap at him, and of course succeeds, ghe always 

-____ 



100 THACKERAY. [CHAP. 

S^ceeds^ Though, she is only the governess, he insists 
upon dancing with her, to the neglect of all the young 
ladies of the neighbourhood. They continue to walk 
together by moonlight, or starlight, the great, heavy, 
stupid, half-tipsy dragoon, and the intriguing, covetous, 
altogether unprincipled young woman. And the two 
young peopie absolutely come to love one another 
in their way, the heavy, stupid, fuddled dragoon, 
and the false, covetous, altogether unprincipled young 
woman. 

The fat aunt Crawley is a maiden lady, very rich, and 
Beckjjpite succeeds in gaining the, rich aunt by her wiles. 
The aunt becomes so fond of Becky down in the country, 
that when she has to return to her own house in town, 
sick from over-eating, she cannot be happy without taking 
Becky with her. So Becky is installed in the house in 
London, having been taken away abruptly from her pupils, 
to the great dismay of the old lady's long-established 
resident companion. TJie,y_.aU fall in love with her; sh0 
makes herself so charming,, she is scTclever ; she can even, 
by help of a little care in dressing, become so picturesque ! 
As all this goes on, the reader feels what a great personage 
is Miss Eebecca Sharp. 

Lady Crawley dies down in the country, while Becky 
!# still staying with his sister, who will not part with her. 
Sir Pitt at once rushes up to town, before the funeral, 
looking for consolation where only he can find it. Becky 
brings him down word from his sister's room that the old 
lady is too ill to see him. 

" So much the better," Sir Pitt answered ; " I want to see you, 
isr Sharp. I want you back at Queen's Crawley, miss," the 
foaronet said. His eyes had such a strange look, and were fixed 
her so steflfastly that Rebecca Sharp began almost to 



in.] VANITY FAIR. 101 

tremble. Then she half promises, talks about the dear children, 
and angles with the old man. ** I tell you I want you," he says ; 
"I'm going back to the vnneral, will you coine back? yes 
or no ? " 

"I daren't. I don't think it wouldn't be right to be 
alone with you, sir," Becky said, seemingly in great 
agitation. 

' I say again, I want you. I can't get on without you. I 
didn't see what ifc was till you went away. The house all goes 
wrong. It's not the same place. All my accounts has got 
muddled again. You must corno back. Do come back. Dear 
Becky, do come." 

" Come, as what, sir ? " Rebecca gasped out. 

" Come as Lady Crawley, if you like. There, will that satisfy 
you ? Come back and be my wife. You're vit for it. Birth be 
hanged. You're as good a lady as ever I see. You've got more 
brains in your little vinger than any baronet's wife in the 
country. Will you come ? Yes or no ? " Rebecca is startled, 
but the old man goes on. " I'll make you happy ; zee if I don't. 
You shall do what you like, spend what you like, and have it 
all your own way. I'll make you a settlement. I'll do every- 
thing regular. Look here," and the old man fell down on his 
knees and leered afc her like a satyr. 

But Eebecca, though she had been angling, angling 
for favour and love and power, had not expected this. 
Eor once in her life she loses her presence of mind, and 
exclaims : " Oh Sir Pitt ; oh sir ; I I'm married already I" 
She has married Eawdon Crawley, Sir Pitt's younger 
son, Miss Crawley's favourite among those of her family 
who are looking for her money. But she keeps her secret 
for the present, and writes a charming letter to the 
Captain] "Dearest, Something tells me that we shall 
conquer. You shall leave that odious regiment Quit 
gaming, racing, and be a good boy, and we shall all live 
in Park Lane, and ma tante shall leave us all her money/' 



102 THACKERAY. [CHAP. 

Ma tant$ money has "been in her mind all through, but 
yet she loves him. 

* c Suppose the old lady doesn't come to," Rawdon said to his 
little wife as they sat together in the snug little Brompton 
lodgings. She had been trying the new piano all the morning. 
The new gloves fitted her to a nicety. The new shawl became 
her wonderfully. The new rings glittered on her little hands, 
and the new watch ticked at her waist. 

"I'll make your fortune," she said; and Delilah patted 
Samson's cheek. 

" You can do anything,*' he said, kissing the little hand. " By 
Jove you can ! and we'll drive down to the Star and Garter and 
dine, by Jove 1 " 

They were neither of them quite heartless at that 
moment, nor did Eawdon ever become quite bad. Thejp. 
follow^the, adventures -of- -Becky as a married woman, 
through all of which there is a glimmer of love for her 
stupid husband, wjiile it is the real purpose of her heart 
to get money how she may, by her charms, by her 
mt^^By'Jier^lieSj^by her., reading. She makes love to 
everyone, even to her sanctimonious brother-in-law, who 
becomes Sir Pitt in his time, ano^aj^^y^sjic^ But 
in her love-making there is nothing of love. She gets 
hold of that well-remembered old reprobate, the Marquis 
of Steyne, who possesses the two valuable gifts of being 
very dissolute and very rich, and from him she obtains 
money and jewels to her heart's desire. The abominations 
of Lord Steyne are depicted in the strongest language of 
which Vanity Fair admits. The reader's hair stands almost 
on end in horror at the wickedness of the two wretches, at 
her desire for money, sheer money ; and his for wicked- 
ness, sheer wickedness. Then her husband finds her out, 
poor Eawdon! who with all his faults and thick- 



m.] VANITY FAIR. 103 

headed stupidity, has become absolutely entranced by the 
wiles of his litjble wife. He is carried off to a sponging- 
house, in order that he may be out of the way, and, on 
escaping unexpectedly from thraldom, finds the lord in his 
wife's drawing-room. Whereupon he thrashes the old lord, 
nearly killing him; takes away the plunder which he finds 
on his wife's person, and hurries away to seek assistance 
as to further revenge; for he is determined to shoot 
the marquis, or to be shot. He goes to one Captain 
Macmurdo, who is to act as his second, and there he pours 
out his heart. " You don't know how fond I was of that 
one," Rawdon said, half -inarticulately. "Damme, 1 
followed her like a footman ! I gave up everything I 
had to her. I'm a beggar because I would marry her. 
By Jove, sir, I've pawned my own watch to get her 
anything she fancied. And she, she's been making 
a purse for herself all the time, and grudged me a 
hundred pounds to get me out of quod 1 " His friend 
alleges that the wife may be innocent after all. " It 
may be so," Eawdon exclaimed sadly; "but this don't 
look very innocent ! " And he showed the captain the 
thousand-pound note which he had found in Becky's 
pocketbook. 

But the marquis can do better than fight ; and Eawdon, 
in spite of his true love, can do better than follow the 
quarrel up to his own undoing. The marquis, on the 
spur of the moment, gets the lady's husband appointed 
governor of Coventry Island, with a salary of three 
thousand pounds a year ; and poor Rawdon at last con- 
descends to accept the appointment. He will not see his 
wife again, but he makes her an allowance <rat of his 
income. 

In arranging all this, Thackeray is enabled to have a 



104 THACKERAY. [CHAP. 

side blow at the British way of distributing patronage, 
for the favour of which he was afterwards himself a can- 
didate. He quotes as follows from The Royalist newspaper : 
" We hear that the governorship " of Coventry Island 
" has been offered to Colonel Eawdon Crawley, C.B., a 
distinguished Waterloo officer. We need not only men 
of acknowledged bravery, but men of administrative 
talents to superintend the affairs of our colonies; and 
we have no doubt that the gentleman* selected by the 
Colonial Office to fdl the lamented vacancy which has 
occurred at Coventry Island, is admirably calculated 
for the post." The reader, however, is aware that the 
officer in question cannot write a sentence or speak two 
words correctly. 

Our heroine's adventures are carried on much further, 
but they cannot be given here in detail. To the end^she 
JsJihe same, utterly false, selfish ; ^o,ystous,'and successful. 
To have made such a 'woman really in love would Have 
been a mistake. Her husband she likes best, because he 
is, or was, her own. Biitjbhere is no man so foul, so 
wicked, so unattractive, but that she can" fawn over him 
for money and jewels. There are women to wlioni nothing 
is nasty, either in person, language, scenes, actions, 01 
principle, and Becky is one of them; and yet she is 
herself attractive. A most wonderful sketch, for the 
perpetration of which all Thackeray's power of combined 
indignation and humour was necessary ! 

The story of Amelia and her two lovers, George 
Osborne and Captain, or as he came afterwards to be, 
Major, and Colonel Dobbin,, is less interesting, simply 
because goodness and eulogy are less exciting than 
wickedness and censure. Amelia is a true, honest-hearted, 
thoroughly English young woman, who loves her love 



m -] VANITY PAIR. 105 

because he is grand, to her eyes, and loving him, loves 
him with all her heart. Eeaders have said that she is 
silly, only because she is not heroic. I do not know that 
she is rnora silly than many young ladies whom we who 
are old have loved in our youth, or than those whom our 
sons are loving at the present time. Eeaders complain of 
Amelia because she is absolutely true to nature. There are no 
Eaffaellistic touches, no added graces, no divine romance. 
She is feminine all over, and British, loving, true, 
thoroughly unselfish, yet with a taste for having things 
comfortable, forgiving, quite capable of jealousy, but prone 
to be appeased at once, at the first kiss ; quite convinced 
that her lover, her husband, her children are the people in 
all the world to whom the greatest consideration is due. 
Such a one is sure to be the dupe of a Becky Sharp, 
should a Becky Sharp come in her way, as is the case 
with so many sweet Amelias whom we have known. But 
in a matter of love she is sound enough and sensible 
enough, and she is as true as steel. I know no trait in 
Amelia which a man would be ashamed to find in his own 
daughter. 

She marries her George Osborne, who, to tell the truth 
of him, is but a poor kind of fellow, though he is a brave 
soldier. He thinks much of his own person, and is selfish. 
Thackeray puts in a touch or two here and there by 
which he is made to be odious. He would rather give a 
present to himself than to the girl who loved him. 
Nevertheless, when her father is runted he marries her, 
and he fights bravely at Waterloo, and is killed. " No 
more firing was heard at Brussels. The pursuit rolled 
miles away. Darkness came down on the field and the 
city, and Amelia was praying for George, who was lying 
on his face, dead, with a bullet through his heart/ 7 



106 TEACKEBAY. [CHAP. 

Then follows the long courtship of Dobbin, the true 
hero, he who has been the friend of George since their 
old school-days ; who has lived with him and served him, 
and has also loved Amelia. But he has loved her, as 
one man may love another, solely with a view to the 
profit of his friend. He has known all along that George 
and Amelia have been engaged to each other as boy and 
girl. George would have neglected her, but Dobbin 
would not allow it. George would have jilted the girl 
who loved him, but Dobbin would not let him. He had 
nothing to get for himself, but loving her as he did, it was 
the work of his life to get for her all that she wanted. 

George is shot at Waterloo, and then come fifteen 
years of widowhood, fifteen years during which Becky is 
carrying on her manoeuvres, fifteen years during which 
Amelia cannot bring herself to accept the devotion of 
the old captain, who becomes at last a colonel. But at 
the end she is won. " The vessel is in port. He has got 
the prize he has been trying for all his life. The bird 
has come in at last There it is, with its head on its 
shoulder, billing and cooing clean up to his heart, with 
soft outstretched fluttering wings. This is what he has 
asked for every day and hour for eighteen years. This is 
what he has pined after. Here it is, the summit, the 
end, the last page of the third volume." 

The reader as he closes the book has on his mind a 
strong conviction, the strongest possible conviction, that 
among men George is as weak and Dobbin as noble as 
any that he has met in literature ; and that among women 
Amelia is as true and Becky as vile as any he has en- 
countered. Of so much he will be conscious. In addition 
to this he will unconsciously have found that every page 
he has read will have been of interest to him. There has 



in.] TANITY FAIR. 107 

been no padding, no longueurs ; every bit will have had 
its weight with him. And he will find too at the end, if 
he will think of it though readers, I fear, seldom think 
much of this in regard to books they have read that the 
lesson taught in every page has been good. There may 
be details of evil painted so as to disgust, painted 
almost too plainly, but none painted so as to allure. 



CHAPTER IV. 

PJ3NDENNIS AND THE NEWCOMES. 

THE absence of the heroic was, in Thackeray, so palpable 
to Thackeray himself that in his original preface to 
Pendennis, when he began to be aware that his reputation 
was made, he tells his public what they may expect and 
what they may not, and makes his joking complaint of 
the readers of his time because they will not endure with 
patience the true picture of a natural man. " Even the 
gentlemen of our age," he says, adding that the sfcory of 
Pendennis is an attempt to describe one of them, just as 
he is, " even those we cannot show as they are with the 
notorious selfishness of their time and their education. 
Since the author of Tom Jones was buried, no writer of 
fiction among us has been permitted to depict to his 
utmost power a MAN. We must shape him, and give him 
a certain conventional temper." Then he rebukes his 
audience because they will not listen to the truth. " You 
will not hear what moves in the real world, what passes 
in society, in the clubs, colleges, mess-rooms, what is the 
life and talk of your sons." You want the Kaffaellistic 
touch, or that of some painter of horrors equally removed 
from the truth. I tell you how a man really does act, 
as did Fielding with Tom Jon 33, but it does not satisfy 
yon. You will not sympathise with this young man of 



CHAP, iv.] PENDENNIS AND THE NEWCOMES. 10 

mine, this Pendennis, because he is neither angel nor imp. 
If it be so, let it be so. I will not paint for you angels or 
imps, because I do not see them. The young man of the 
clay, whom I do see, and of whom I know the inside and 
the out thoroughly, him I have painted for you; and 
here he is, whether you like the picture or not. This is 
what Thackeray meant, and, having this in his mind, he 
produced Pendennis. 

The object of a novel should be to instruct in 
morals while it amuses. I cannot think but that every 
novelist who has thought much of his art will have 
realised as much as that for himself. Whether this may 
best be done by the transcendental or by the common- 
place is the question which it more behoves the reader 
than the author to answer, because the author may be 
fairly sure that he who can do the one will not, probably 
cannot, do the other. If a lad be only five feet high he 
does not try to enlist in the Guards. Thackeray com- 
plains that many ladies have "remonstrated and sub- 
scribers left him," because of his realistic tendency. 
Nevertheless he has gone on with his work, and, in 
Pendennis, has painted a young man as natural as Tom 
Jones, Had he expended himself in the attempt, he 
could not have drawn a Master of Eavenswood. 

It has to be admitted that Pendennis is not a fine 
fellow. He is not as weak, as selfish, as untrustworthy as 
that George Osborne whom Amelia married in Vanity 
Fair; but nevertheless, he is weak, and selfish, and 
untrustworthy. He is not such a one as a father would 
wish to see his son, or a mother to welcome as a lover for 
her daughter. But then, fathers are so often doomed to 
find their sons not all that they wish, and mothers to see 
their girls falling in love with young men who are not 



110 THACKERAY. [CHAP. 

Paladins. In our individual lives we are contented to 
endure an admixture of evil, which we should resent if 
imputed to us in the general. "We presume ourselves to 
be truth-speaking, noble in our sentiments, generous in 
our actions, modest and unselfish, chivalrous and devoted. 
But we forgive and pass over in silence a few delin- 
quencies among ourselves. What boy at school ever is a 
coward, in the general 1 ? What gentleman ever tells a lie 1 ? 
What young lady is greedy *! We take it for granted, as 
though they were fixed rules in life, that our boys 
from our public schools look us in the face and are manly ; 
that our gentlemen tell the truth as a matter of course ; 
and that our young ladies are refined and unselfish. 
Thackeray is always protesting that it is not so, and that 
no good is to be done by blinking the truth. He knows 
that we have our little home experiences. Let us have 
the facts out, and mend what is bad if we can. This 
novel of Pendennis is one of his loudest protests to this 
effect. 

I will not attempt to tell the story of Pendennis, how 
his mother loved him, how he first came to be brought up 
together with Laura Bell, how he thrashed the other boys 
when he was a boy, and how he fell in love with Miss 
Fotheringay, ne'e Costigan, and was determined to marry 
her while he was still a hobbledehoy, how he went up to 
Boniface, that well-known college at Oxford, and there 
did no good, spending money which he had not got, and 
learning to gamble. The English gentleman, as we know, 
never lies; but Pendennis is not quite truthful; when 
the college tutor, thinking that he hears the rattling of 
dice, makes his way into Pen's room, Pen and his two 
companions are found with three Homers before them, 
and Pen asks the tutor with great gravity ; " What was 



iv.] PBNDENNIS AND THE KEWOOMES. Ill 

the present condition of the river Scamander, and whether 
it was navigable or no I" He tells his mother that, 
during a certain vacation he must stay up and read, 
instead of coming home ; but, nevertheless, he goes up to 
London to amuse himself. The reader is soon made to 
understand that, though Pen may be a fine gentleman, he 
is not trustworthy. But he repents and comes home, and 
kisses his mother; only, alas ! he will always be kissing 
somebody else also, 

The story of the Amorys and the Coverings, and that 
wonderful French cook M. Alcide Mirobolant, forms one 
of those delightful digressions which Thackeray scatters 
through his novels rather than weaves into them. They 
generally have but little to do with the story itself, and 
are brought in only as giving scope for some incident to 
the real hero or heroine. But in this digression Pen is 
very much concerned indeed, for he is brought to the 
very verge of matrimony with that peculiarly disagreeable 
lady Miss Amory. He does escape at last, but only 
within a few pages of the end, when we are made un- 
happy by the lady's victory over that poor young sinner 
Joker, with whom we have all come to sympathise, in 
spite of his vulgarity and fast propensities. She would 
to the last fain have married Pen, in whom she believes, 
thinking that he would make a name for her. H me 
faut des emotions/' says Blanche. Whereupon the author, 
as he leaves her, explains the nature of this Miss 
Amory's feelings. "Tor this young lady was not able 
to carry out any emotion to the full, but had a sham 
enthusiasm, a sham hatred, a sham love, a sham taste, 
a sham grief; each of which flared and shone very 
vehemently for an instant, but subsided and gave place 
to the next sham emotion," Thackeray, when he drew 



112 THACZEKAY. [CHAP, 

this portrait, must certainly have had some special young 
lady in his view. But though we are made unhappy for 
!Foker, Foker too escape.3 -.ifc last, and Blanche, with her 
emotions, marries that very doubtful nobleman Comte 
Montmorenci de Yalentinois. 

But all this of Miss Amory is but an episode. The 
purport of the story is the way in which the hero is 
made to enter upon the world, subject as he has been to 
the sweet teaching of his mother, and subject as he is 
made to be to the worldly lessons of his old uncle the 
major. Then he is ill, and nearly dies, and his mother 
comes up to nurse him. And there is his friend "War- 
rington, of whose family down in Suffolk we shall have 
heard something when we have read The Virginians, one 
I think of the finest characters, as it is certainly one of 
the most touching, that Thackeray ever drew. "War- 
rington, and Pen's mother, and Laura are our hero's 
better angels, angels so good as to make us wonder 
that a creature so weak should have had such angels about 
him ; though we are driven to confess that their affection 
and loyalty for him are natural. There is a melancholy 
beneath the roughness of Warrington, and a feminine 
softness combined with the reticent manliness of the man, 
which have endeared him to readers beyond perhaps any 
character in the book. Major Pendennis has become 
immortal Selfish, worldly, false, padded, caring alto- 
gether for things mean and poor in themselves ; still the 
reader likes him. It is not quite all for himself. To Pen 
he is good, to Pen who is the head of his family, and 
to come after him as the Pendennis of the day. To Pen 
and to Pen's mother he is beneficent after his lights. In 
whatever he undertakes it is so contrived that the readei 
shall in some degree sympathise with him. And so it is 



nO PENDENNIS AND THE NEWCOMES. 113 

with poor old Costigan, the drunken Irish captain, Miss 
Fotheringay's papa. He was not a pleasant person. " We 
have witnessed the deshabille of Major Pendennis," says 
our author ; " will any one wish to he valet-de-chamhre to 
our other hero, Costigan 1 It would seem that the cap- 
tain, before issuing from his bedroom, scented himself 
with otto of whisky." Yet there is a kindliness about 
him which softens our hearts, though in truth he is 
very careful that the kindness shall always be shown to 
himself. 

Among these people Pen makes his way to the end of 
the novel, coming near to shipwreck on various occasions, 
and always deserving the shipwreck which he has almost 
encountered. Then there will arise the question whether 
it might not have been better that he should be altogether 
shipwrecked, rather than housed comfortably with such a 
wife as Laura, and left to that enjoyment of happiness 
forever after,, which is the normal heaven prepared for 
heroes and heroines who have done their work well 
through three volumes. It is almost the only instance 
in all Thackeray's works in which this state of bliss 
is reached. G-eorge Osborne, who is the beautiful lover 
in Vanity Fair, is killed almost before our eyes, on the 
field of battle, and we feel that Nemesis has with justice 
taken hold of him. Poor old Dobbin does marry the 
widow, after fifteen years of further service, when we 
know him to be a middle-aged man and her a middle-aged 
woman. That glorious Paradise of which I have spoken 
requires a freshness which can hardly be attributed to 
the second marriage of a widow who has been fifteen 
years mourning for her first husband. Olive JSTewcome, 
* the first young man," if we may so call him, of the 
novel which I shall mention just now, is carried so far 



114 THACKEEAT. [CHAP. 

beyond his matrimonial elysium that we are allowed to 
see too plainly how far from true may be those promises 
of hymeneal happiness forever after. The cares of 
married life have settled down heavily upon his young 
head before we leave him. He not only marries, but 
loses his wife, and is left a melancholy widower with 
his son. Esmond and Beatrix certainly reach 110 such 
elysium as that of which we are speaking. But 
Pen, who surely deserved a Nemesis, though per- 
haps not one so black as that demanded by George 
Osborne's delinquencies, is treated as though he had 
been passed through the fire, and Lad come out, if 
not pure gold, still gold good enough for goldsmiths. 
" And what sort of a husband will this Pendennis be 1 " 
This is the question asked by the author himself at the 
end of the novel; feeling, no doubt, some hesitation as 
to the justice of what he had just done. " And what 
sort of a husband will this Pendennis be 1 ?" many a 
reader will ask, doubting the happiness of such a marriage 
and the future of Laura. The querists are referred to 
that lady herself, who, seeing his faults and wayward 
moods seeing and owning that there are better men than 
he loves him always with the most constant affection. 
The assertion could be made with perfect confidence, but 
is not to the purpose. That Laura's affection should be 
constant, no one would doubt; but more than that is 
wanted for happiness. How about Pendennis and his 
constancy ? 

The Newcomes, which I bracket in this chapter with 
Pendennis, was not written till after Esmond, and 
appeared between that novel and The Virginians, which 
was a sequel to Esmond. It is supposed to be edited by 
Pen, whose own adventures we have just completed, and 



iv.] PENDENNIS AND THE NEWOOMES. 115 

is commenced by that celebrated night passed by Colonel 
Newcome and his boy Clive at the Cave of Harmony, 
during which the colonel is at first so pleasantly received 
and so genially entertained, but from which he is at last 
banished, indignant at the iniquities of our drunken old 
friend Captain Costigan, with whom we had become 
intimate in Pen's own memoirs. The boy Clive is 
described as being probably about sixteen. At the end 
of the story he has run through the adventures of his 
early life, and is left a melancholy man, a widower, one 
who has suffered the extremity of misery from a step- 
mother, and who is wrapped up in the only son that is 
left to him, as had been the case with his father at the 
beginning of the novel. T7ie Newcomes, therefore, like 
Thackeray's other tales, is rather a slice from the bio- 
graphical memoirs of a family, than a romance or novel 
in itself. 

It is full of satire from the first to the last page. Every 
word of it seems to have been written to show how vile 
and poor a place this world is \ how prone men are to 
deceive, how prone to be deceived. There is a scene in 
which " his Excellency Rummun Loll, otherwise his High- 
ness Rummun Loll," is introduced to Colonel Kewcome, 
or rather presented, for the two men had known each 
other before. All London was talking of Eummun Loll, 
taking him for an Indian prince, but the colonel, who 
had served in India, knew better. Eummun Loll was 
no more than a merchant, who had made a precarious 
fortune by doubtful means. All the girls, nevertheless, 
are running after his Excellency. " He's known to have 
two wives already in India," says Barnes JSTeweome ; 
"but, by gad, for a settlement, I believe some of the 
girls here would marry him." We have a delightful 

I? 



r. 6 THACKERAY; [CHAP. 

illustration of the London girls, with, their bare necks and 
shoulders, sitting round Rummun Loll and worshipping 
him as he reposes on his low settee. There are a dozen of 
them so enchanted that the men who wish to get a sight 
of the Bummun are quite kept at a distance. This is 
satire on the women. A few pages on we conie upon a 
clergyman who is no more real than Bummun Loll. The 
clergyman, Charles Honeyman, had married the colonel's 
sister and had lost his wife, and now the brothers-in-law 
meet. " ' Poor, poor Emma ! ' exclaimed the ecclesiastic, 
casting his eyes towards the chandelier and passing a 
white cambric pocket-handkerchief gracefully before them. 
ISTo man in London understood the ring business or the 
pocket-handkerchief business better, or smothered his 
emotion more beautifully. 'In the gayest moments, in 
the giddiest throng of fashion, the thoughts of the past 
will rise ; the departed will be among us still. But this 
is not the strain wherewith to greet the friend newly 
arrived on our shores. How it rejoices me to behold 
you in old England.' " And so the satirist goes on with 
Mr. Honeyman the clergyman. Mr. Honeyman the clergy- 
man has been already mentioned, in that extract made in 
our first chapter from Lovel the Widower. It was he who 
assisted another friend, " with his wheedling tongue," in 
inducing Thackeray to purchase that " neat little literary 
paper," called then The Museum, but which was in truth 
The National Standard. In describing Barnes JSTewcome, 
the colonel's relative, Thackeray in the same scene attacks 
the sharpness of the young men of business of the present 
day. There were, or were to be, some transactions with 
Eummun Loll, and Barnes Newcorae, being in doubt, 
asks toe colonel a question or two as to the certainty of the 
money, much to the colonel's disgust. " The 



iv.] PENDENNIS AND THE NEWCOMES. 117 

young man of business had dropped his drawl or l*is 
languor, and was speaking quite unaffectedly, good- 
naturedly, and selfishly. Had you talked to him for ?> 
week you would not have made him understand the scorn 
and loathing with which the colonel regarded him. Here 
was a young fellow as keen as the oldest curmudgeon, 
a lad with scarce a beard to his chin, that would 
pursue his bond as rigidly as Shylock." " Barnes New- 
come never missed a church," he goes on, "or dressing 
for dinner. He never kept a tradesman waiting for his 
money. He seldom drank too much, and never was late 
for business, or huddled over his toilet, however brief his 
sleep or severe his headache. In a word, he was as 
scrupulously whiter! as any sepulchre in the whole bills 
of mortality." Thackeray had lately seen some Barnes 
Newcome when he wrote that. 

It is all satire; but there is generally a touch of pathos 
even through the satire. It is satire when Miss Quigley, 
the governess in Park Street, falls in love with the old 
colonel after some dim fashion of her own. " Wlien she 
is walking with her little charges in the Park, faint signals 
of welcome appear on her wan cheeks. She knows the 
dear colonel amidst a thousand horsemen." The colone) 
had drunk a glass of wine with, her after his stately fashion, 
and the foolish old maid thinks too much of it. Then we 
are told how she knits purses for him, " as she sits alone 
in the schoolroom, high up in that lone house, when the 
little ones are long since asleep, before her dismal little 
tea-tray, and her little desk containing her mother's letters 
and her mementoes of home." Miss Quigley is an ass > 
but we are made to sympathise entirely with, the ass, 
because of that morsel of pathos as to her 
letters. 



118 THACKERAY. [CHAP. 

Clive Newcome, our hero, who is a second Pen, but a 
better fellow, is himself a satire on young men, on young 
men who are idle and ambitious at the same time. He is 
a painter ; but, instead of being proud of his art, is half 
ashamed of it, because not being industrious he has not, 
while yet young, learned to excel. He is "doing" a 
portrait of Mrs. Pendennis, Laura, and thus speaks of 
his business. " No. 666," he is supposed to be quoting 
from the catalogue of the Eoyal Academy for the year, 
"No. 666. Portrait of Joseph Muggins, Esq., Newcome, 
George Street. No. 979. Portrait of Mrs. Muggins on 
her gray pony, Newconie. No. 579. Portrait of Joseph 
Muggins, Esq.'s dog Toby, Newcome. This is what I am 
fit for. These are the victories I have set myself on 
achieving. Oh Mrs. Pendennis ! isn't it humiliating 1 
"Why isn't there a war 1 "Why haven't I a genius 1 There 
is a painter who lives hard by, and who begs me to come 
and look at his work. He is in the Muggins line too. 
He gets his canvases with a good light upon them ; ex- 
cludes the contemplation of other objects stands beside 
his picture in an attitude himself ; and thinks that he 
and they are masterpieces. Oh me, what drivelling 
wretches we are ! Fame ! except that of just the one or two, 
what? s the use of it ? " In all of which Thackeray is 
speaking his own feelings about himself as well as the 
world at large. What's the use of it all ? Oh vanitas 
vanitatum ! Oh vanity and vexation of spirit ! " So 
Clive Newcome," he says afterwards, "lay on a bed of 
down and tossed and tumbled there. He went to fine 
dinners, and sat silent over them ; rode fine horses, and 
black care jumped up behind the moody horseman." As 
I write tins I have before me a letter from Thackeray to a 



iv.] PENDENNIS AND THE NEWOOMES. 119 

friend describing his own success when Vanity Fair was 
coming out, full of the same feeling. He is making money, 
but he spends it so fast that he never has any \ and as for 
the opinions expressed on his books, he cares little for 
what he hears. There was always present to him a feeling 
of black care seated behind the horseman, and would 
have been equally so had there been no real care present 
to him. A sardonic melancholy was the characteristic 
most common to him, which, however, was relieved by 
an always present capacity for instant frolic. It was these 
attributes combined which made him of all satirists the 
most humorous, and of all humorists the most satirical. 
It was these that produced the Osbornes, the Dobbins, 
the Pens, the Olives, and the Kewcomes, whom, when he 
loved them the most, he could not save himself from 
describing as mean and unworthy. A somewhat heroic 
hero of romance, such a one, let us say, as Waverley, or 
Lovel in The Antiquary, or Morton in Old Mortality, 
was revolting to him, as lacking those foibles which human 
nature seemed to him to demand. 

The story ends with two sad tragedies, neither of which, 
would have been demanded by the story, had not such 
sadness been agreeable to the author's own idiosyncrasy. 
The one is the ruin of the old colonel's fortunes, he 
having allowed himself to be enticed into bubble specula- 
tions ; and the other is the loss of all happiness, and even 
comfort, to Clive the hero, by the abominations of his 
mother-in-law. The woman is so iniquitous, and so 
tremendous in her iniquities, that she rises to tragedy. 
"Who does not know Mrs. Mack the Campaigner 2 Why 
at the end of his long story should Thackeray have 
married his hero to so lackadaisical a heroine as poor 



120 THACKEBAY. [CHAP. 

little Bosey, or brought on the stage such a she-demon 
as Bosey's mother '? But there is the Campaigner in all 
her vigour, a marvel of strength of composition, one of 
the most vividly drawn characters in fiction; but a 
woman so odious that one is induced to doubt whether 
she should have been depicted. 

The other tragedy is altogether of a different kind, 
and though unnecessary to the story, and contrary to that 
practice of story-telling which seems to demand that 
calamities to those personages with whom we are to 
sympathise should not be brought in at the close of a 
work of fiction, is so beautifully told that no lover of 
Thackeray's work would be willing to part with it. The 
old colonel, as we have said, is ruined by speculation, 
and in his ruin is brought to accept the alms of the 
brotherhood of the Grey Friars. Then we are introduced 
to the Charter House, at which, as most of us know, 
there still exists a brotherhood of the kind. He dons 
the gown, this old colonel, who had always been com- 
fortable in his means, and latterly apparently rich, and 
occupies the single room, and eats the doled bread, and 
among his poor brothers sits in the chapel of his order. 
The description is perhaps as fine as anything that 
Thackeray ever did. The gentleman is still the gentle- 
man, with all the pride of gentry ; but not the less is 
he the humble bedesman, aware that he is living upon 
charity, not made to grovel by any sense of shame, but 
knowing that, though his normal pride may be left to 
him, an outward demeanour of humility is befitting. 

And then he dies. " At the usual evening hour the 
chapel bell began to toll, and Thomas Newcome's hands 
outside the bed feebly beat time, and, just as the last 



iv.j PENDENNIS AND THE NEWCOMES. 121 

bell struck, a peculiar sweet smile shone over his face, 
and he lifted up his head a little, and quickly said, 
'Adsum,' and fell back. It was the word we used at 
school when names were called ; and, lo, he whose heart 
'Was as that of a little child had answered to his name, 
and stood in the presence of the Master ! " 



CHAPTEE Y. 

ESMOND AND THE VIRGINIANS. 

THE novel with which we are now going to deal I 
regard as the greatest work' that Thackeray did. Though 
I do not hesitate to compare himself with himself, I will 
make no comparison between him and others ; I therefore 
abstain from assigning to Esmond any special niche 
among prose fictions in the English language, but I 
rank it so high as to justify me in placing him among 
the small number of the highest class of English novelists. 
Much as I think of Barry Lyndon and Vanity Fair, 
I cannot quite say this of them ; but, as a chain is not 
stronger than its weakest link, so is a poet, or a dramatist, 
or a novelist to be placed in no lower level than that 
which he has attained by his highest sustained flight. 
The excellence which has been reached here Thackeray 
achieved, without doubt, by giving a greater amount of 
forethought to the work he had before him than had 
been his wont. When we were young we used to be told, 
in our house at home, that " elbow-grease " was the one 
essential necessary to getting a tough piece of work well 
done. If a mahogany table was to be made to shine, 
it was elbow-grease that the operation needed. Fore- 
thought is the elbow-grease which a novelist, or poet, 
or dramatist, requires. It is not only his plot that has 



CHAP, v.] ESMOND AND THE VIRGINIANS. 123 

to be turned and re-turned in his mind, not his plot 
chiefly, but he has to make himself sure of his situations, 
of his characters, of his effects, so that when the time 
comes for hitting the nail he may know where to hit it 
on the head, so that he may himself understand the 
passion, the calmness, the virtues, the vices, the rewards 
and punishments which he means to explain to others, 
so that his proportions shall be correct, and he be 
saved from the absurdity of devoting two-thirds of his 
book to the beginning, or two-thirds to the completion 
of his task. It is from want of this special labour, more 
frequently than from intellectual deficiency, that the 
tellers of stories fail so often to hit their nails on the 
head. To think of a story is much harder work than to 
write it. The author can sit down with the pen in his 
hand for a given time, and produce a certain number of 
words. That is comparatively easy, and if he have a con- 
science in regard to his task, work will be done regularly. 
But to think it over as you lie in bed, or walk about, 
or sit cosily over your fire, to turn it all in your thoughts, 
and make the things fit, that requires elbow-grease of 
the mind. The arrangement of the words is as though 
you were walking simply along a road. The arrange- 
ment of your story is as though you were carrying a sack 
of flour while you walked. Fielding had carried his sack 
of flour before he wrote Tom Jones, and Scott his before 
he produced Ivanhoe. So had Thackeray done, a very 
heavy sack of flour, in creating Esmond. In Vanity Fair, 
in Pendennis, and in The Neiocomes, there was more of that 
mere wandering in which no heavy burden was borne. 
The richness of the author's mind, the beauty of his 
language, his imagination and perception of character are 
all there. For that which was lovely he has shown his love, 



124 THACKERAY. 

and for the hateful his hatred but, nevertheless, they are 
comparatively idle "books. His only work, as far as I can 
judge them, in which there is no touch of idleness, is 
Esmond. Barry Lyndon is consecutive, and has the well- 
sustained purpose of exhibiting a finished rascal; but 
Barry Lyndon is not quite the same from beginning t<? 
end. All his full-fledged novels, except Esmond, contain 
rather strings of incidents and memoirs of individuals, 
than a completed story. But Esmond is a whole from 
beginning to end, with its tale well told, its purpose deve- 
loped, its moral brought home, and its nail hit well on 
the head and driven in. 

I told Thackeray once that it was not only his best 
work, but so much the best, that there was none second 
to it. That was what I intended," he said, " but I have 
failed. Nobody reads it. After all, what does it matter 1 " 
he went on after awhile. "If they like anything, one 
ought to be satisfied. After all, Esmond was a prig." 
Then he laughed and changed the subject, not caring 
to dwell on thoughts painful to him. The elbow- 
grease of thinking was always distasteful to him, and 
had no doubt been so when he conceived and carried out 
this work. 

To the ordinary labour necessary for such a novel he 
added very much by his resolution to write it in a style 
different, not only from that which he had made his own, 
but from that also which belonged to the time. He had 
devoted himself to the reading of the literature of Queen 
Anne's reign, and having chosen to throw his story into 
that period, and to create in it personages who were to be 
peculiarly concerned with the period, he resolved to use as 
the vehicle for his story the forms of expression then 
prevalent. No one who has not tried it can understand 



v.] ESMOND AND THE VIRGINIANS. 125 

how great is tlie difficulty of mastering a phase of one's 
own language other than that which habit has made 
familiar. To write in another language, if the language 
be sufficiently known, is a much less arduous undertaking. 
The lad who attempts to write his essay in Ciceronian 
Latin struggles to achieve a style which is not indeed 
common to him, but io more common than any other he 
has become acquainted with in that tongue. But Thackeray 
in his work had always to remember his Swift, his Steele, 
and his Addison, and to forget at the same time the modes 
of expression which the day had adopted. Whether he 
asked advice on the subject, I do not know. But I feel sure 
that if he did he must have been counselled against it. Let 
my reader think what advice he would give to any writer on 
such a subject. Probably he asked no advice, and would 
have taken none. ]N T o doubt he found himself, at first 
imperceptibly, gliding into a phraseology which had at- 
tractions for his ear, and then probably was so charmed 
with the peculiarly masculine forms of sentences which 
thus became familiar to him, that he thought it would 
be almost as difficult to drop them altogether as altogether 
to assume the use of them. And if he could do so suc- 
cessfully, how great would be the assistance given to the 
local colouring which is needed for a novel in prose, the 
scene of which is thrown far back from the writer's 
period ! Were I to write a poem about Coeur de Lion I 
should not mar my poem by using the simple language of 
the day ; but if I write a prose story of the time, I cannot 
altogether avoid some attempt at far-away quaintnesses in 
language. To call a purse a " gypsire," and to begin your 
little speeches with " Marry come up," or to finish, them 
with " Quotha," are but poor attempts. But even they 
have had their effect. Scott did the best he could with his 



126 THACKERAY. [CHAP. 

Coeur de Lion. When we look to it we find that it was 
"but little ; though in his hands it passed for much. " By 
my troth/' said the knight, "thou hast sung well and 
heartily, and in high praise of thine order." We doubt 
whether he achieved any similarity to the language of the 
time; hut still, even in the little which he attempted 
there was something of the picturesque. But how much 
more would "be done if in very truth the whole language 
of a story could "be thrown with correctness into the form 
of expression used at the time depicted 1 

It was this that Thackeray tried in his Esmond, and 
he has done it almost without a flaw. The time in ques- 
tion is near enough to us, and the literature sufficiently 
familiar to enable us to judge. Whether folk swore by 
their troth in the days of king Eichard I. we do not 
know, but when we read Swift's letters, and Addison's 
papers, or Defoe's novels we do catch the veritable sounds 
of Queen Anne's age, and can say for ourselves whether 
Thackeray has caught them correctly or not. No reader 
can doubt that he has done so. Nor is the reader ever 
struck with the affectation of an assumed dialect. The 
words come as though they had been written naturally, 
though not natural to the middle of the nineteenth 
century. It was a tour de force ; and successful as such 
a tour de force so seldom is. But though Thackeray 
was successful in adopting the tone he wished to assume, 
he never quite succeeded, as far as my ear can judge, in 
altogether dropping it again. 

And yet it has to be remembered that though Esmond 
deals with the times of Queen Anne, and " copies the 
language" of the time, as Thackeray himself says in 
the dedication, the story is not supposed to have been 
Britten till the reign of George II. Esmond in J4s 



v.] ESMOND AND THE VIRGINIANS. 127 

narrative speaks of Fielding and Hogarth, who did their 
best work under George II. The idea is that Henry 
Esmond, the hero, went out to Virginia after the events 
told, and there wrote the memoir in the form of an auto- 
biography. The estate of Castlewood in Virginia had 
been given to the Esmond family by Charles L, and 
this Esmond, our hero, finding that expatriation would 
best suit both his domestic happiness and his political 
difficulties, as the reader of the book will understand 
might be the case, settles himself in the colony, and 
there writes the history of his early life. He retains 
the manners, and with the manners the language of his 
youth. He lives among his own people, a country gen- 
tleman with a broad domain, mixing but little with the 
world beyond, and remains an English gentleman of 
the time of Queen Anne. The story is continued in 
The Virginians, the name given to a record of two lads 
who were grandsons of Harry Esmond, whose names are 
"Warrington. Before The Virginians appeared we had 
already become acquainted with a scion of that family, 
the friend of Arthur Pendennis, a younger son of Sir 
Miles Warrington, of Suffolk. Henry Esmond's daughter 
had in a previous generation married a younger son of 
the then baronet. This is mentioned now to show the 
way in which Thackeray's mind worked afterwards upon 
the details and characters which he had originated in 
Esmond. 

It is not my purpose to tell the story here, but rather to 
explain the way in which it is written, to show how it 
differs from other stories, and thus to explain its effect 
Harry Esmond, who tells the story, is of course the hero. 
There are two heroines who equally command our sym- 
pathy, Lady Castlewood the wife of Harry's kinsman. 



12b PEACKEKAY. [CHAP. 

and her daughter Beatrix, Thackeray himself declared 
the man to "be a prig, and he was not altogether wrong. 
Beatrix, with whom throughout the whole book he is in 
love, knew him well " Shall I he frank with you, 
Harry/' she says, when she is engaged to another suitor, 
" and say that if you had not been down on your 
knees and so humble, you might have fared better 
with me? A woman of my spirit, cousin, is to be won 
by gallantry, and not by sighs and rueful faces. All 
fche time you are worshipping and singing hymns to me, 
I know very well I am no goddess." And again : 
" As for you, you want a woman to bring your slippers 
and cap, and to sit at your feet and cry, caro, 
caro ! bravo ! whilst you read your Shakespeares and 
Miltons and stuff." He was a prig, and the girl he loved- 
knew him, and being quite of another way of thinking 
herself, would have nothing to say to him in the way of 
love. But without something of the aptitudes of a prig 
the character which the author intended could not have 
been drawn. There was to be courage, military courage,- 
and that propensity to fighting which the tone of the 
age demanded in a finished gentleman. Esmond there- 
fore is ready enough to use his sword. But at the same 
time he has to live as becomes one whose name is in some 
degree under a cloud ; for though he be not in truth an 
illegitimate offshoot of the noble family which is his, and 
though he knows that he is not so, still he has to live as 
though he were. He becomes a soldier, and it was just 
then that our army was accustomed " to swear horribly 
in Flanders." But Esmond likes his books, and cannot 
swear or drink like other soldiers. Nevertheless he has 
a sort of liking for fast ways in others, knowing that 
such are tne ways of a gallant cavalier. % There is a 



v.] ESMOND ANB THE VIRGINIANS. 129 

melancholy over liis life which, makes him always, to 
himself and to others, much older than his years. He is 
well aware that, being as he is> it is impossible that 
Beatrix should love him. Now and then there is a dash 
of lightness about him, as though he had taught himself 
in his philosophy that even sorrow may be borne with a 
smile, as though there was something in him of the 
Stoic's doctrine, which made him feel that even dis 
appointed love should not be seen to wound too deep. 
But still when he smiles, even when he indulges in some 
little pleasantry, there is that garb of melancholy over him 
which always makes a man a prig. But he is a gentle- 
man from the crown of his head to the sole of his foot 
Thackeray had let the whole power of his intellect 
apply itself to a conception of the character of a gentle- 
man. This man is brave, polished, gifted with that old- 
iashioned courtesy which ladies used to love, true as 
steel, lo'yal as faith himself, with a power of self-abnega- 
tion which astonishes the criticising reader when he finds 
such a virtue carried to such an extent without seeming to 
be unnatural. To draw the picture of a man and say that 
he is gifted with all the virtues is easy enough, easy 
enough to describe him as performing all the virtues. 
The difficulty is to put your man on his legs, and make 
him move about, carrying his virtues with a natural gait, 
so that the reader shall feel that he is becoming acquainted 
with flesh and blood, not with a wooden figure. The 
virtues are all there with Henry Esmond, and the flesh 
and blood also, so that the reader believes in them. But 
still there is left a flavour of the character which 
Thackeray himself tasted when he called his hero a prig. 

The two heroines, Lady Castlewood and Beatrix, are 
mother and daughter, of whom the former is in love with 



130 THACKERAY. [CHAP. 

Esmond, and the latter is loved by him. Fault has been 
found with the story, because of the unnatural rivalry, 
because it has been felt that a mother's solicitude for her 
daughter should admit of no such juxtaposition. But the 
criticism has come, I think, from those who have failed 
to understand, not from those who have understood, the 
tale ; not because they have read it, but because they 
have not read it, and have only looked at it or heard of 
it. Lady Castlewood is perhaps ten years older than the 
boy Esmond, whom she first finds in her husband's house, 
and takes as a protege ; and from the moment in which 
she finds that he is in love with her own daughter, she 
does her best to bring about a marriage between them. Her 
husband is alive, and though he is a drunken brute, 
after the manner of lords of that time, she is thoroughly 
loyal to him. The little touches, of which the woman is 
herself altogether unconscious, that gradually turn a love 
for the boy into a love for the man, are told so delicately, 
that it is only at last that the reader perceives what has 
in truth happened to the woman. She is angry with 
him, grateful to him, careful over him, gradually con- 
scious of all his worth, and of all that he does to her and 
hers, till at last her heart is unable to resist. But then 
she is a widow; and Beatrix has declared that her 
ambition will not allow her to marry so humble a swain, 
and Esmond has become, as he says of himself when 
he calls himself " an old gentleman," " the guardian of 
all the family," fit to be the grandfather of you all." 

The character of Lady Castlewood has required more 
delicacy in its manipulation than perhaps any other 
which Thackeray has drawn. There is a mixture in it. of 
self-negation and of jealousy, of gratefulness of heart and 
of the weary thoughtfulness of age, of occasional spright- 



V.] ESMOND AND THE VIRGINIANS. 131 

liness with deep melancholy, of injustice with a thorough 
appreciation of the good around her, of personal weakness, 
as shown always in her intercourse with her children, 
and of personal strength, as displayed when she vin- 
dicates the position of her kinsman Henry to the Duke 
of Hamilton, who is about to marry Beatrix ; a mixture 
which has required a master's hand to trace. These con- 
tradictions are essentially feminine. Perhaps it must be 
confessed that in the unreasonableness of the woman, the 
author has intended to bear more harshly on the sex than 
it deserves. But a true woman will forgive him, because 
of the truth of Lady Castlewood's heart. Her husband had 
been killed in a duel, and there were circumstances which 
had induced her at the moment to quarrel with Harry and 
to be unjust to him. He had been ill, and had gone away 
to the wars, and then she had learned the truth, and had 
been wretched enough. But when he comes back, and 
she sees him, by chance at first, as the anthem is being 
sung in the cathedral choir, as she is saying her prayers, 
her heart flows over with tenderness to him. " I knew 
you would come back," she said ; " and to-day, Henry, 
in the anthem when they sang it, '"When the Lord 
turned the captivity of Zion we were like them that 
dream/ I thought, yes, like them that dream, them 
that dream. And then it went on, * They that sow in 
tears shall reap in joy, and he that goeth forth and 
weepeth, shall doubtless come home again with rejoicing, 
bringing his sheaves with him/ I looked up from the 
book and saw you. I was not surprised when I saw 
you. I knew you would come, my dear, and saw the 
gold sunshine round your head." And so it goes on, 
running into expressions of heartmelting tenderness. 
And yet she herself does not know that her own heart 

K 2 



132 THACKERAY. [CHAP. 

is seeking his with all a woman's love, She is still 
willing that he should possess Beatrix. " I would call 
you my son," she says, " sooner than the greatest prince 
in Europe." But she warns him of the nature of her 
own girl. " 'Tis for my poor Beatrix I tremble, whose 
headstrong will affrights me, whose jealous temper, and 
whose vanity no prayers of mine can cure." It is but 
very gradually that Esmond becomes aware of the truth, 
Indeed, he has not become altogether aware of it ti]l the 
tale closes. The reader does not see that transfer of 
affection from the daughter to the mother which would 
fail to reach his sympathy. In the last page of the last 
chapter it is told that it is so, that Esmond marries 
Lady Castlewood, but it is not told till all the incidents 
of the story have been completed. 

But of the three characters I have named, Beatrix is 
the one that has most strongly exercised the writer's 
powers, and will most interest the reader. As far as 
outward person is concerned she is very lovely, so 
charming, that every man that comes near to her submits 
himself to her attractions and caprices. It is but rarely 
that a novelist can succeed in impressing his reader with 
a sense of female loveliness. The attempt is made so 
frequently, comes so much as a matter of course in every 
novel that is written, and fails so much as a matter of 
course, that the reader does not feel the failure. There 
are things which we do not expect to have done for us 
in literature because they are done so seldom. Novelists 
are apt to describe the rural scenes among which their 
characters play their parts, but seldom leave any impression 
of the places described. Even in poetry how often does this 
occur^ The words used are pretty, well chosen, perhaps 
musical to the ear, and in that way befitting ; feut unless 



v.] ESMOND AND THE VIRGINIANS. 133 

the spot has violent characteristics of its own, such as 
Burley's cave or the waterfall of Lodore, no striking 
portrait is left. Nor are we disappointed as we read, 
because we have not "been taught to expect it to be other- 
wise. So it is with those word-painted portraits of women, 
which are so frequently given and so seldom convey any 
impression. Who has an idea of the outside look of Sophia 
Western, or Edith Bellenden, or even of Imogen, though 
lachinio, who described her, was so good at words? A 
series of pictures, illustrations, as we have with 
Dickens' novels, and with Thackeray's, may leave an 
impression of a figure, though even then not often of 
feminine beauty. But in this work Thackeray has suc- 
ceeded in imbuing us with a sense of the outside loveliness 
of Beatrix by the mere force of words. We are not only 
told it, but we feel that she was such a one as a man 
cannot fail to covet, even when his judgment goes against 
his choice. 

Here the judgment goes altogether against the choice. 
The girl grows up before us from her early youth till her 
twenty-fifth or twenty-sixth year, and becomes, such as 
her mother described her, one whose headlong will, whose 
jealousy, and whose vanity nothing could restrain. She has 
none of those soft foibles, half allied to virtues, by which 
weak women fall away into misery or perhaps distraction. 
She does not want to love or to be loved. She does not 
care to be fondled. She has no longing for caresses. 
She wants to be admired, and to make use of the 
admiration she shall achieve for the material purposes 
of her life. She wishes to rise in the world; and her 
beauty is the sword with which she must open her oyster. 
As to her heart, it is a thing of which she becomes aware, 
only to assure herself that it must be laid aside and put 



134 THACKERAY. [CHAP. 

out of the question. Now and again Esmond touches it. 
She just feels that she has a heart to be touched. But 
she never has a doubt as to her conduct in that respect. 
She will not allow her dreams of ambition to be disturbed 
by such folly as love. 

In all that there might be something, if not good and 
great, nevertheless grand, if her ambition, though worldly, 
had in it a touch of nobility. But this poor creature is 
made with her bleared blind eyes to fall into the very 
lowest depths of feminine ignobility. One lover comes 
after another. Harry Esmond is, of course, the lover with 
whom the reader interests himself. At last there comes 
a duke, fifty years old, indeed, but with semi-royal 
appanages. As his wife she will become a duchess, with 
many diamonds, and be her Excellency. The man is stern, 
cold, and jealous ; but she does not doubt for a moment. 
She is to be Duchess of Hamilton, and towers already in 
pride of place above her mother, and her kinsman lover, and 
all her belongings. The story here, with its little incidents 
of birth, and blood, and ignoble pride, and gratified am- 
bition, with a dash of true feminine nobility on the part 
of the girl's mother, is such as to leave one with the im- 
pression that it has hardly been beaten in English prose 
fiction. Then, in the last moment, the duke is killed in 
a duel, and the news is brought to the girl by Esmond. 
She turns upon him and rebukes him harshly. Then she 
moves away, and feels in a moment that there is nothing 
left for her in this world, and that she can only throw 
herself upon devotion for consolation. "I am best in my 
own room and by myself, 3 ' she said. Her eyes were 
quite dry, nor did Esmond ever see them otherwise, save 
once, in respect of that grief. She gave him a cold hand 
as she went out. " Thank you, brother," she said in a 



v.] ESMOND AND THE VIRGINIANS. 135 

low voice, and with a simplicity more touching than tears, 
" all that you have said is true and land, and I will go 
away and will ask pardon." 

But the consolation coming from devotion did not go 
far with such a one as her. "We cannot rest on religion 
merely by saying that we will do so. Very speedily there 
comes consolation in another form. Queen Anne is on 
her deathbed, and a young Stuart prince appears upon 
the scene, of whom some loyal hearts dream that they 
can make a king. He is such as Stuarts were, and only 
walks across the novelist's canvas to show his folly and 
heartlessness. But there is a moment in which Beatrix 
thinks that she may rise in the world to the proud place 
of a royal mistress. That is her last ambition ! That is 
her pride ! That is to be her glory ! The bleared eyes 
can see no clearer than that. But the mock prince passes 
away, and nothing but the disgrace of the wish remains. 

Such is the story of Esmond, leaving with it, as does 
all Thackeray's work, a melancholy conviction of the 
vanity of all things human. Vanitas vanitatum, as he 
wrote on the pages of the French lady's album, and again 
in one of the earlier numbers of The Corntiill Magazine. 
With much that is picturesque, much that is droll, much 
that is valuable as being a correct picture of the period 
selected, the gist of the book is melancholy through- 
out. It ends with the promise of happiness to come, but 
that is contained merely in a concluding paragraph. The 
one woman, during the course of the story, becomes a 
widow, with a living love in which she has no hope, with 
children for whom her fears are almost stronger than her 
affection, who never can rally herself to happiness for a 
moment. The other, with all her beauty and all her 
brilliance, becomes what we have described, and marries 



136 THACKEKAY. [CHAP, 

at last her brother's tutor, who becomes a bishop by means 
of her intrigues. Esmond, the hero, who is compounded 
of all good gifts, after a childhood and youth tinged 
throughout with melancholy, vanishes from us, with, the 
promise that he is to be rewarded by the hand of the 
mother of the girl he has loved. 

And yet there is not a page in the book over which a 
thoughtful reader cannot pause with delight. The nature 
in it is true nature. Given a story thus sad, and persons 
thus situated, and it is thus that the details would 
fellow each other, and thus that the people would con- 
duet themselves. It was the tone of Thackeray's mind 
to turn away from the prospect of things joyful, and to see, 
or believe that he saw,- in all human affairs, the seed 
of something base, of something which would be antago- 
nistic to true contentment. All his snobs, and all his 
fools, and all his knaves, come from the same conviction. 

Is it not the doctrine on which our religion is founded, 

though the sadness of it there is alleviated by the doubtful 
promise of a heaven? 

Though thrice a thousand years are passed 
Since David's son, the sad and splendid, 

The weary king ecclesiast 

Upon his awful tablets penned it. 

So it was that Thackeray preached his sermon. But 
melancholy though it be, the lesson taught in Esmond 
is salutary from beginning to end. The sermon truly 
preached is that glory can only come from that which is 
truly glorious, and that the results of meanness end 
always ^in the mean. No girl will be taught to wish to 
shine like Beatrix, nor will any youth be made to think 
that to gain the love of such a one it can be worth his 
while to expend his energy or his heart 



Vj ESMOND AND THE "VIRGINIANS. 137 

Esmond was published iA 1852. It was not till 1858, 
some time after he had returned from his lecturing tours, 
that he published the sequel called The Virginians. It was 
first brought out in twenty-four monthly numbers, and ran 
through the years 1858 and 1859, Messrs. Bradbury and 
Evans having been the publishers. It takes up by no means 
the story of Esmond, and hardly the characters. The twin 
lads, who are called the Virginians, and whose name is 
Warrington, are grandsons of Esmond and his wife Lady 
Castlewood. Their one daughter, born at the estate in 
Virginia, had married a Warrington, and the Virginians 
are the issue of that marriage. In the story, one is sent 
to England, there to make his way ; and the other is for 
awhile supposed to have been killed by the Indians. How 
he was not killed, but after awhile comes again forward 
in the world of fiction, will be found in the story, which 
it is not our purpose to set forth here. The most inbe- 
resting part of the narrative is that which tells us of the 
later fortunes of Madame Beatrix, the Baroness Bernstein, 
the lady who had in her youth been Beatrix Esmond, 
who had then condescended to become Mrs. Tasker, the 
tutor's wife, whence she rose to be the " lady " of a bishop, 
and, after the bishop had been put to rest under a load of 
marble, had become the baroness, a rich old woman, 
courted by all her relatives because of her wealth, 

In TJie Virginians, as a work of art, is discovered, 
more strongly than had shown itself yet in any of his 
works, that propensity to wandering which came to 
Thackeray because of his idleness. It is, I think, to be 
found in every book he ever wrote, except Esmond ; but 
is here more conspicuous than it had been in his earlier 
years. Though he can settle himself down to his pen 
and ink, not always even to that without a struggle, but 



138 THACKERAY. [CHAP. v. 

to that with sufficient "burst of energy to produce a large 
average amount of work, he cannot settle himself down 
to the task of contriving a story. There have been those, 
and they have not been bad judges of literature, who 
have told me that they have best liked these vague 
narratives. The mind of the man has been clearly 
exhibited in them. In them he has spoken out his 
thoughts, and given the world to know his convictions, as 
well as could have been done in the carrying out any 
well-conducted plot. And though the narratives be vague, 
the characters are alive. In TJie Virginians, the two 
young men and their mother, and the other ladies with 
whom they have to deal, and especially their aunt, the 
Baroness Bernstein, are all alive. For desultory reading, for 
that picking up of a volume now and again which requires 
permission to forget the plot of a novel, this novel is 
admirably adapted. There is not a page of it vacant or 
dull. But he who takes it up to read as a whole, will 
find that it is the work of a desultory writer, to whom it 
is not unfrequently difficult to remember the incidents of 
his own narrative. " How good it is, even as it is ! but 
if he would have done his best for us, what might he 
not have done ! " This, I think, is what we feel when we 
read The Virginians, The author's mind has in one way 
been active enough, and powerful, as it always is ; but 
he has been unable to fix it to an intended purpose, and 
has gone on from day to day furthering the difficulty he 
has intended to master, till the book, under the stress of 
circumstances, demands for copy and the like, has been 
completed before the difficulty has even in truth been 
encountered* 



CHAPTEE VI 

THACKERAY'S BUBLESQUES. 

As so much of Thackeray's writing partakes of the nature 
of burlesque, it would have been unnecessary to devote a 
separate chapter to the subject, were it not that there are 
among his tales two or three so exceedingly good of their 
kind, coming so entirely up to our idea of what a prose 
burlesque should be, that were I to omit to mention them 
I should pass over a distinctive portion of our author's 
work. 

The volume called Burlesques, published in 1869, begins 
with the Novels ly Eminent Hands, and Jeames's Diary, to 
which I have already alluded. It contains also The 
Tremendous Adventures of Major Qahagan, A Legend of 
the Rhine, and Rebecca and Rowena. It is of these that 
I will now speak. The History of the Next French Revo- 
lution and Cox's Diary, with which the volume is con- 
cluded, are, according to my thinking, hardly equal to the 
others ; nor are they so properly called burlesques. 

Nor will I say much of Major Gahagan, though his 
adventures are very good fun. He is a warrior, that is, 
of course, and "he is one in whose wonderful narrative 
all that distant India can produce in the way of boasting, 
is superadded to Ireland's best efforts in the same line. 
Baron Munchausen was nothing to him ; and to the bare 



140 THACKERAY. [CHAP. 

and simple miracles of the baron is joined that humour 
without which Thackeray never tells any story. This is 
broad enough, no doubt, but is still humour ; as when the 
major tells us that he always kept in his own apartment 
a small store of gunpowder ; " always keeping it under 
my bed, with a candle burning for fear of accidents." 
Or when he describes his courage ; " I was running, 
running as the brave stag before the hounds, running, 
as I have done a great number of times in my life, 
when there was no help for it but a run." Then he 
tells us of his digestion. " Once in Spain I ate the leg of 
a horse, and was so eager to swallow this morsel, that I 
bolted the shoe as well as the hoof, and never felt the 
slightest inconvenience from either." He storms a citadel, 
and has only a snuff box given him for his reward. " Never 
mind," says Major Gahagan ; " when they want me to 
storm a fort again, I shall know better," By which we 
perceive that the major remembered his Horace, and had 
in his mind the soldier who had lost his purse. But the 
major's adventures, excellent as they are, lack the continued 
interest which is attached to the two following stories. 

Of what nature is The Legend of the Rhine, we learn 
from the commencement. " It was in the good old days 
of chivalry, when every mountain that bathes its shadow 
in the Rhine had its castle ; not inhabited as now by a 
few rats and owls, nor covered with moss and wallflowers 
and funguses and creeping ivy. To, no } where the ivy 
now clusters there grew strong portcullis and bars of 
steel ; where the wallflowers now quiver in the ramparts 
there were silken banners embroidered with wonderful 
heraldry ; men-at-arms marched where now you shall only 
see a bank of moss or a hideous black champignon ; and 
in place of the rats and owlets, I warrant me there were 



vi.] THACKERAY'S BURLESQUES. 141 

ladies and knights to revel in the great halls, and to feast 
and dance, and to make love there." So that we know 
well beforehand of what kind will this story be. It will 
be pure romance, -burlesqued. "Ho seneschal, fill me 
a cup of hot liquor ; put sugar in it, good fellow ; yea, 
and a little hot water, but very little, for my soul is sad 
as I think of those days and knights of old." 

A knight is riding alone on his war-horse, with all his 
armour with him, and his luggage. His rank is shown by 
the name on his portmanteau, and his former address and 
present destination by a card which was attached. It 
had run, " Count Ludwig de Hombourg, Jerusalem, but 
the name of the Holy City had been dashed out with the 
pen, and that of Godesberg substituted." "By St. Hugo 
of Katzenellenbogen," said the good knight shivering, 
"'tis colder here than at Damascus. Shall I be at 
Godesberg in time for dinner?" He has come to see his 
friend Count Karl, Margrave of Godesberg. 

But at Godesberg everything is in distress and sorrow. 
There is a new inmate there, one Sir Gottfried, since whose 
arrival the knight of the castle has become a wretched 
man, having been taught to believe all evils of his wife, 
and of his child Otto, and a certain stranger, one Hilde- 
brandt. Gottfried, we see with half an eye, has done it 
all. It is in vain that Ludwig de Hombourg tells his 
old friend Karl that this Gottfried is a thoroughly bad 
fellow, that he had been found to be a cardsharper in the 
Holy Land, and had been drummed out of his regiment. 
"'Twas- but some silly quarrel over the wine-cup," says 
Karl. " Hugo de Brodenel would have no black bottle 
on the board." We think we can remember the quarrel 
of "Brodenel" and the black bottle, though so many 
things have taken place since that. 



142 THACKERAY. [CHAP. 

There is a festival in the castle, and Hildebrandt comes 
with the other guests. Then Ludwig's attention is called 
by poor Karl, the father, to a certain family likeness. 
Can it he that he is not the father of his own child 1 He 
is playing cards with his friend Ludwig when that traitor 
Gottfried comes and whispers to him, and makes an ap- 
pointment. "I will he there too," thought Count Ludwig, 
the good Knight of Homhourg. 

On the next morning, before the stranger knight had 
shaken off his slumbers, all had been found out and 
everything done. The lady has been sent to a convent 
and her son to a monastery. The knight of the castle 
has -no comfort but in his friend Gottfried, a distant 
cousin who is to inherit everything. All this is told to Sir 
Ludwig, who immediately takes steps to repair the mis- 
chief. " A cup of coffee straight," says he to the servitors. 
" Bid the cook pack me a sausage and bread in paper, and 
the groom saddle Streithengst. We have far to ride." 
So this redresser of wrongs starts off, leaving the Margrave 
in his grief. 

Then there is a great fight between Sir Ludwig and 
Sir Gottfried, admirably told in the manner of the later 
chroniclers, a hermit sitting by and describing everything 
almost as well as Eebecca did on the tower. Sir Ludwig 
being in the right, of course gains the day. But the 
escape of the fallen knight's horse is the cream of this 
chapter. "Away, ay, away ! away amid the green vine- 
yards and golden cornfields ; away up the steep mountains, 
where he frightened the eagles in their eyries; away down 
the clattering ravines, where the flashing cataracts tunable ; 
away through the dark pine-forests, where the hungry 
wolves are howling ; away over the dreary wolds, where 
the wild wind walks alone; away through the splashing 



vi.] THACKERAY'S BURLESQUES. 143 

quagmires, where the will-o'-the wisp slunk frightened 
among the reeds ; away through light and darkness, storm 
and sunshine ; away by tower and town, highroad and 
hamlet. . . . Brave horse ! gallant steed ! snorting child 
of Araby ! On went the horse, over mountains, rivers, 
turnpikes, applewomen ; and never stopped until he 
reached a livery- stable in Cologne, where his master was 
accustomed to put him up ! " 

The conquered knight, Sir Gottfried, of course reveals 
the truth. This Hildebrandt is no more than the lady's 
brother, as it happened a brother in disguise, and 
hence the likeness. Wicked knights when they die 
always divulge their wicked secrets, and this knight 
Gottfried does so now. Sir Ludwig carries the news 
home to the afflicted husband and father ; who of course 
instantly sends off messengers for his wife and son. The 
wife wo'n't come. All she 'wants is to have her dresses 
and jewels sent to her. Of so cruel a husband she has 
had enough. As for the son, he has jumped out of a boat 
on the Rhine, as he was being carried to his monastery, 
and was drowned ! 

Eut he was not drowned, but had only dived. " The 
gallant boy swam on beneath the water, never lifting his 
head for a single moment between Godesberg and Cologne ; 
the distance being twenty-five or thirty miles." 

Then he becomes an archer, dressed in green from head 
to foot. How it was is all told in the story j and he goes to 
shoot for a prize at the Castle of Adolf the Duke of Cleeves. 
On his way be shoots a raven marvellously, almost as 
marvellously as did Robin Hood the twig in Ivanhoe. Then 
one of his companions is married, or nearly married, to 
the mysterious "Lady of Windeck," would have been 
married but for Otto, and that the bishop and dean, who 



144 THACKERAY. ('CHAP, 

were dragged up from their long-ago graves to perform 
the ghostly ceremony, were prevented by the ill-timed 
mirth of a certain old canon of the church named 
Schidnischmidt. The reader has to read the name out 
loud before he recognises an old friend. But this of the 
Lady of Windeck is an episode. 

How at the shooting-match, which of course ensued, 
Otto shot for and won the heart of a fair lady, the duke's 
daughter, need not be told here, nor how he quarrelled 
with the Eowski of Donnerblitz, the hideous and sulky, 
but rich and powerful, nobleman who had come to take 
the hand, whether he could win the heart or not, of the 
daughter of the duke. It is all arranged according to the 
proper and romantic order. Otto, though he enlists in 
the duke's archer-guard as simple soldier, contrives to 
fight with the Eowski de Donnerblitz, Margrave of Eulen- 
schrenkenstein, and of course kills him. " ' Yield, yield, 
Sir Eowski !' shouted he in a calm voice. A blow dealt 
madly at his head was the reply. It was the last blow 
that the count of Eulenschrenkenstein ever struck in 
battle. The cur.se was on his lips as the crashing steel 
descended into his brain and split it in two. He rolled 
like a dog from his horse, his enemy's knee was in a 
moment on his chest, and the dagger of mercy at his 
throat, as the knight once more called upon him to yield." 
The knight was of course the archer who had come for- 
ward as an unknown champion, and had touched the 
Eowski's shield with the point of his lance. For this 
story, as well as the rest, is a burlesque on our dear old 
favourite Ivanhoe. 

That everything goes right at last, that the wife comes 
back from her monastery, and joins her jealous husband, 
and that the duke's daughter has always, in truth, known 



vi.] THACKERAY'S BUBLESQUES. H5 

that the poor archer was a noble knight, these things 
are all matters of course. 

But the best of the three burlesques is Rebecca and 
Roivena, or A Romance upon Romance, which I need not 
tell my readers is a continuation of Ivanhoe. Of this bur- 
lesque it is the peculiar characteristic that, while it has been 
written to ridicule the persons and the incidents of that 
perhaps the most favourite novel in the English language, 
it has been so written that it would not have offended the 
autftior had he lived to read it, nor does it disgust or annoy 
those who most love the original. There is not a word in 
it having an intention to belittle Scott. It has sprung 
from the genuine humour created in Thackeray's mind by 
his aspect of the romantic. We remember how reticent, 
how dignified was Eowena, how cold we perhaps thought 
her, whether there was so little of that billing and cooing, 
that kissing and squeezing, between her and Ivanhoe which 
we used to think necessary to lovers' blisses. And there 
was left too on our minds, an idea that Ivanhoe had liked 
the Jewess almost as well as Eowena, and that Eowena 
might possibly have become jealous. Thackeray's mind 
at once went to work and pictured to him a Eowena such 
as such a woman might become after marriage ; and as 
Ivanhoe was of a melancholy nature and apt to be hipped, 
and grave, and silent, as a matter of course Thackeray 
presumes him to have been henpecked after his marriage. 

Our dear "Wamba disturbs his mistress in some de- 
votional conversation with her chaplain, and the stern 
lady orders that the fool shall have three-dozen lashes. 
" I got you out of Front de Eceuf s castle," said poor 
Wamba, piteously, appealing to Sir Wilfrid of Ivanhoe^ 
"and canst thou not save me from the lashl" 

"Yes; from Front de Bceufs castle, when you were 

L 



146 THACKERAY. [CHAP 

locked up with the Jewess in the toiver! " said Eowena, 
haughtily replying to the timid appeal of her husband. 
"Gurth, give him four-dozen," and this was all poor 
"Wamba got by applying for the mediation of his master. 
Then the satirist moralises ; " Did you ever know a right- 
minded woman pardon another for being handsomer and 
more love-worthy than herself 1 ?" Eowena is "always 
flinging Eebecca into Ivanhoe's teeth;" and altogether 
life at Botherwood, as described by the later chronicles, 
is not very happy even when most domestic, Ivanhoe 
becomes sad and moody. He takes to drinking, and his 
lady does not forget to tell him of it. " Ah dear axe I" 
he exclaims, apostrophising his weapon, " ah gentle steel ! 
that was a merry time when I sent thee crashing into the 
pate of the Emir Abdul Melek ! " There was nothing 
left to him but his memories ; and " in a word, his life 
was intolerable." So he determines that he will go and 
look after king Eichard, who of course was wandering 
abroad. He anticipates a little difficulty with his wife ; 
but she is only too happy to let him go, comforting her- 
self with the idea that Athelstane will look after her. So 
her husband starts on his journey. "Then Ivanhoe's 
trumpet blew. Then Eowena waved her pocket-hand- 
kerchief. Then the household gave a shout. Then the 
pursuivant of the good knight, Sir Wilfrid the Crusader, 
flung out his banner, which was argent, a gules cramoisy 
with three Moors impaled, then Waniba gave a lash on 
his mule's haunch, and Ivanhoe, heaving a great sigh, 
turned the tail of his war-horse upon the castle of his 
fathers," 

Ivanhoe finds Coeur de Leon besieging the Castle of 
Chalons, and there they both do wondrous deeds, 
Ivanhoe . always surpassing the king. The jealousy of 



vi.] THACKEBAY'S BURLESQUES. 147 

the courtiers, the ingratitude of the king, and the melan- 
choly of the knight, who is never comforted except when 
he has slaughtered some hundreds, are delightful. Roger 
de Eackbite and Peter de Toadhole are intended to be 
quite real. Then his majesty sings, passing off as his 
own, a song of Charles Lever's. Sir Wilfrid declares the 
truth, and twits the king with his falsehood, whereupon 
he has the guitar thrown at his head for his pains. He 
catches the guitar, however, gracefully in his left hand, 
and sings his own immortal ballad of King Canute, 
than which Thackeray never did anything better. 

" Might I stay the sun above us, good Sir Bishop ? " Canute 

cried j 

*' Could I bid the silver moon to pause upon her heavenly ride ? 
If the moon obeys my orders, sure I can command the tide. 

Will the advancing waves obey me, Bishop, if I make the 

sign?" 
Said the bishop, bowing lowly ; " Land and sea, my lord, are 

thine." 
Canute turned towards the ocean j "Back, "he said, "thou 

foaming brine." 

But the sullen ocean answered with a louder deeper roar, 
And the rapid waves drew nearer, falling, sounding on the 

shore ; 
Back the keeper and the bishop, back the king and courtiers 

bore. 

We must go to the book to look at the picture of the 
king as he is killing the youngest of the sons of the 
Count of Chalons. Those illustrations of Doyle's are 
admirable. The size of the king's head, and the size of 
his battle-axe as contrasted with the size of the child, are 
burlesque all over. But the king has been wounded by a 
bolt from the bow of Sir Eertrand de Gourdon while he 

L 2 



148 THACKEBAY. [CHAP. 

is slaughtering the infant, and there is an end of him. 
Ivanhoe, too, is killed at the siege, Sir Eoger de 
Backbite having stabbed him in the back during the 
scene. Had he not been then killed, his widow Eowena 
could not have married Athelstane, which she soon did 
after hearing the sad news ; nor could he have had that 
celebrated epitaph in Latin and English ; 

Hie esfc Guilfridus, belli dum vixit avidus. 
Cum gladeo et lancea Normannia efc quoque Francia 
Verbera dura dabat. Per Turcos multum equitabat. 
Guilbertum oocidifc j atque Hyerosolyma vidit. 
Heu ! nunc sab fossa sunfc tanti militis ossa. 
TJxor Athelstani esfc conjux casfcissima Thani. 1 

The translation we are told was by Wamba ; 

Under the stone you behold, Brian, the Templar untrue, 
Buried and coffined and cold, Fairly in tourney he slew; 
Lieth Sir Wilfrid the Bold. Saw Hierusalem too. 

Always he marched in advance, Now he is buried and gone, 
Warring in Flanders and France, Lying beneath the gray stone. 
Doughty with sword and with Where shall you find such a 
lance. one ? 

Famous in Saracen fight, Long time his widow deplored, 

Bode in his youth, the Good Weeping, the fate of her lord, 

Knight, Sadly cut off by the sword. 
Scattering Paynims in flight. 

When she was eased of her pain, 
Came the good lord Athelstane, 
When her ladyship married again. 

1 1 doubt that Thackeray did not write the Latin epitaph, but I 
hardly dare suggest the name of any author. The " vixit avidus " 
is quite worthy of Thackeray; but had he tried his hand at such 
mode of expression he would have done more of it. I should 
like to know whether he had been in company with Father Prout 
at the time. 



vr.] THACKERAY'S BURLESQUES. 149 

The next chapter begins naturally as follows ; " I trust 
nobody will suppose, from the events described in the 
last chapter, that our friend Ivanhoe is really dead." 
He is of course cured of his wounds, though they take 
six years in the curing. And then he makes his way 
back to Eotherwood, in a friar's disguise, much as he did 
on that former occasion when we first met him, and there 
is received by Athelstane and Eowena, and their boy ! 
while Wamba sings him a song : 

Then you know the worth, of a lass, 
Once yon. have come to forty year 1 

To one, of course, but Wamba knows Ivanhoe, who 
roams about the country, melancholy, as he of course 
would be, charitable, as he perhaps might be, for we 
are specially told that he had a large fortune and nothing to 
do with it, and slaying robbers wherever he met them ; 
but sad at heart all the time. Then- there comes a little 
burst of the author's own feelings, while he is burlesquing. 
"Ah my dear friends and British public, are there not 
others who are melancholy under a mask of gaiety, and 
who in the midst of crowds are lonely ? Listen was a most 
melancholy man ; Grimaldi had feelings ; and then others 
I wot of. But psha ! let us have the next chapter." 
In all of which there was a touch of earnestness. 

Ivanhoe's griefs were enhanced by the wickedness of 
king John, under whom he would not serve. " It was 
Sir "Wilfrid of Ivanhoe, I need scarcely say, who got the 
Barons of England to league together and extort from the 
king that famous instrument and palladium of our 
liberties, at present in the British Museum, Great Eussell 
Street, Bloomsbury, The Magna Charta." Athelstane 
also quarrels with the king, whose orders he disobeys, and 
Eotherwood is attacked by the royal army. No one was 



150 THACKERAY. [CHAP. 

of real service in the way of fighting except Ivanhoe, 
and how could he take up that cause? " JSTo ; be hanged 
to me," said the knight bitterly. " This is a quarrel in 
which I can't interfere. Common politeness forbids. Let 
yonder ale-swilling Athelstane defend his, ha, ha ! wife ; 
and my Lady Ko wena guard her, ha, ha ! son ! " and he 
laughed wildly and madly. 

But Athelstane is killed, this time in earnest, and 
then Ivanhoe rushes to the rescue. He finds Gurth dead 
at the park-lodge, and though he is all alone, having 
outridden his followers, he rushes up the chestnut 
avenue to the house, which is being attacked. "An 
Ivanhoe ! an Ivanhoe 1 " he bellowed out with a shout that 
overcame all the din of battle; "Notre Dame a la 
recousse 1 " and to hurl his lance through the midriff of 
Eeginald de Bracy, who was commanding the assault, 
who fell howling with anguish, to wave his battle-axe 
over his own head, and to cut off those of thirteen men- 
at-arms, was the work of an instant. " An Ivanhoe ! an 
Ivanhoe ! " he still shouted, and down went a man as sure 
as he said " hoe ! " 

Nevertheless he is again killed by multitudes, or very 
nearly, and has again to be cured by the tender nursing 
of Wamba. But Athelstane is really dead, and Eowena 
and the boy have to be found. He does his duty and 
finds them, -just in time to be present at Eowena's death. 
She has been put in prison by king John, and is in 
extremis when her first husband gets to her. " Wilfrid, 
my early loved," 1 slowly gasped sho removing her gray 

1 There is something almost illnatured in his treatment of 
&owena, who is very false in her declarations of love ; and it is 
to be feared that by Eowena, the autho intends the normal 
married lady of English society. 



viij THACKERAY'S BURLESQUES. 151 

hair from her furrowed temples, and gazing on her boy 
fondly as he nestled on Ivanlioe's knee, " promise me by 
St. Waltheof of Templestowe, promise me one boon ! " 

" I do," said Ivanhoe, clasping the boy, and thinking 
that it was to that little innocent that the promise was 
intended to apply. 

"By St. Waltheof?" 

"By St. Waltheof I" 

" Promise me then," gasped Eowena, staring wildly at 
him, " that you will never marry a Jewess ! " 

"By St. Waltheof!" cried Ivanhoe, "but this is too 
much," and he did not make the promise. 

" Having placed young Cedric at school at the Hall of 
Dotheboys, in Yorkshire, and arranged his family affairs, 
Sir Wilfrid of Ivanhoe quitted a country which had no 
longer any charm for him, as there was no fighting to be 
done, and in which his stay was rendered less agreeable 
by the notion that king John would hang him." So he 
goes forth and fights again, in league with the Knights of 
St. John, the Templars naturally having a dislike to him 
because of Brian de Bois Guilbert. " The only fault that 
the great and gallant, though severe and ascetic Folko of 
Heydenbraten, the chief of the Order of St. John, found 
with the melancholy warrior whose lance did such service 
to the cause, was that he did not persecute the Jews as 
so religious a knight shotdd. So the Jews, in cursing the 
Christians, always excepted the name of the Desdichado, 
or the double disinherited, as he now was, the- Des- 
dichado Doblado." Then came the battle of Alarcos, and 
the Moors were all but in possession of the whole of Spain. 
Sir Wilfrid, like other good Christians, cannot endure 
this, so he takes ship in Bohemia, where he happens to 
be quartered, and has himself , carried to Barcelona, and 



152 THACKERAY. [CHAP. 

proceeds " to slaughter the Moors forthwith." Then there 
is a scene in which Isaac of York conies on as a messenger, 
to ransom from a Spanish knight, Don Beltram de Cuchilla 
y Trabuco, y Espada, y Espelon, a little Moorish girl. 
The Spanish knight of course murders the little girl instead 
of taking the ransom. Two hundred thousand dirhems are 
offered, however much that may be ; but the knight, who 
happens to be in funds at the time, prefers to kill the 
little girl. All this is only necessary to the story as intro- 
ducing Isaac of York. Sir Wilfrid is of course intent upon 
finding Rebecca. Through all his troubles and triumphs, 
from his gaining and his losing of Eowena, from the 
day on which he had been " locked up with the Jewess in 
tJie tower" he had always been true to her. "Away 
from me ! " said the old Jew, tottering. "Away, Rebecca 
is, dead 1 " Then Ivanhoe goes out and kills fifty 
thousand Moors, and there is the picture of him, killing 
them. 

But Rebecca is not dead at all. Her father had said so 
because Rebecca had behaved very badly to him, She 
had refused to marry the Moorish prince, or any of her 
own people, the Jews, and had gone as far as to declare 
her passion for Ivanhoe and her resolution to be a 
Christian. All the Jews and Jewesses in Valencia 
turned against her, so that she was locked up in the 
back-kitchen and almost starved to death. But Ivanhoe 
found her of course, and makes her Mrs. Ivanhoe, or 
Lady Wilfrid the second. Then Thackeray tells us how 
for many years he, Thackeray, had not ceased to feel that 
it ought to be so. " Indeed I have thought of it any time 
these five-and-twenty years, ever since, as a boy at school, 
I commenced the noble study of novels, ever since the 
day when, lying on sunny slopes, of half-holidays, the fair 



vi.] THACKEBATS BURLESQUES. 153 

chivalrous figures and beautiful shapes of knights and 
ladies were visible to me, ever since I grew to love 
Eebecca, that sweetest creature of the poet's fancy, and 
longed to see her righted." 

And so, no doubt, it had been. The very burlesque 
had grown from the way in which his young imagination 
had been moved by Scott's romance. He had felt from 
the time of those happy half-holidays in which he had 
been lucky enough to get hold of the novel, that according 
to all laws of poetic justice, Eebecca, as being the more 
beautiful and the more interesting of the heroines, was 
entitled to the possession of the hero. We have all of 
us felt the same. But to him had been present at the 
same time all that is ludicrous in our ideas of middle-age 
chivalry ; the absurdity of its recorded deeds, the blood- 
thirstiness of its recreations, the selfishness of its men, 
the falseness of its honour, the cringing of its loyalty, 
the tyranny of its princes. And so there came forth 
Eebecca and Eowena, all broad fun from beginning to 
end, but never without a purpose, the best burlesque, as 
I think, in our language. 



CHAPTER VII 

THACKEBAY'S LECTUKES. 

IN speaking of Thackeray's life I have said why and how , 
it was that he took upon himself to lecture, and have, 
also told the reader that he was altogether successful in 
carrying out the views proposed to himself. Of his 
peculiar manner of lecturing I have said hut little, never 
having heard him. " He pounded along, very clearly," 
I have been told ; from which I surmise that there was 
no special grace of eloquence, but that he was always 
audible. I cannot imagine that he should have been 
ever eloquent. He could not have taken the 1 trouble, 
necessary with his voice, with his cadences, or with his 
outward appearance. I imagine that they who seem so 
naturally to fall into the proprieties of elocution have 
generally taken a great deal of trouble beyond that which 
the mere finding of their words has cost them. It is 
clearly to the matter of what he then gave the world, and 
not to the manner, that we must look for what interest is 
to be found in the lectures. 

Those on TJie English Humorists were given first. 
The second set was on TJie Four Georges. In the volume 
now before us Tlie Georges are printed first, and the 
whole is produced simply as a part of Thackeray's literary 
work. Looked at, however, in that light the merit of the 



CHAP, vn.] THACKERAY'S LECTURES. 155 

two sets of biographical essays is very different. In the one 
we have all the anecdotes which could be brought together 
respecting four of our kings, who as men were not 
peculiar, though their reigns were, and will always be, 
famous, because the country during the period was in- 
creasing greatly in prosperity and was ever strengthening 
the hold it had upon its liberties. In the other set the 
lecturer was a man of letters dealing with men of letters, 
and himself a prmce among humorists is dealing with the 
humorists of his own country and language. One could 
not imagine a better subject for such discourses from 
Thackeray's mouth than the latter. The former was not, 
I think, so good. 

In discussing the lives of kings the biographer may 
trust to personal details or to historical facts. He may 
take the man, and say what good or evil may be said of 
him as a man ; or he may take the period, and tell his 
readers what happened to the country while this or the 
other king was on the throne. In the case with which 
we are dealing, the lecturer had not time enough or 
room enough for real history. His object was to let 
his audience know of what nature were the men : and we 
are bound to say that the pictures have not on the whole 
been flattering. It was almost necessary that with such a 
subject such should be the result. A story of family 
virtues, with princes and princesses well brought up, 
with happy family relations, all couleur de rose, as it 
would of course become us to write if we were dealing 
with the life of a living sovereign, would not be inte- 
resting. No one on going to hear Thackeray lecture on 
the Georges expected that. There must be some piquancy 
given, or the lecture would be dull ; and the eulogy of 
personal virtues can seldom be piquant. It is difficult to 



!56 THACKERAY. [CHAP. 

speak fittingly of a sovereign, either living or not long 
since gone. You can hardly praise such a one without 
flattery. You can hardly censure him without injustice. 
"We are either ignorant of his personal doings or we 
know them as secrets, which have been divulged for the 
most part either falsely or treacherously, often both 
falsely and treacherously. It is better, perhaps, that we 
should not deal with the personalities of princes. 

I believe that Thackeray fancied that he had spoken 
well of George III., and am sure that it was his intention 
to do so. Eut the impression he leaves is poor. " He is 
said not to have cared for Shakespeare or tragedy much ; 
farces and pantomimes were his joy ; and especially when 
clown swallowed a carrot or a string of sausages, he would 
laugh so outrageously that the lovely princess by his side 
would have to say, 6 My gracious monarch, do compose 
yourself. 7 ' George, be a king ! ' were the words which 
she," his mother, " was ever croaking in the ears of her 
son ; and a king the simple, stubborn ; affectionate, bigoted 
man tried to be." " He did his best ; he worked according 
to his lights ; what virtues he knew he tried to practise \ 
what knowledge he could master he strove to acquire." 
If the lectures were to be popular, it was absolutely 
necessary that they should be written in this strain. A 
lecture simply laudatory on the life of St. Paul would not 
draw even the bench of bishops to listen to it ; but were 
a flaw found in the apostle's life, the whole Church of 
England would be bound to know all about it. I am 
quite sure that Thackeray believed every word that he 
said in the lectures, and that he intended to put in the 
good and the bad, honestly, as they might come to his 
hand. "We may be quite sure that he did not intend to 
fatter the royal family ; equally sure that he would not 



vii.] THACKERAY'S LECTUKES. 157 

calumniate. There were, however, so many difficulties to 
be encountered that I cannot but think that the subject 
was ill-chosen. In making them so amusing as he did 
and so little offensive great ingenuity was shown. 

I will now go back to the first series, in which the 
lecturer treated of Swift, Congreve, Addison, Steele, Prior, 
Gay, Pope, Hogarth, Smollett, Fielding, Sterne, and 
Goldsmith. All these Thackeray has put in their proper 
order, placing the men from the date of their birth, except 
Prior, who was in truth the eldest of the lot, but whom 
it was necessary to depose, in order that the great Swift 
might stand first on the list, and Smollett, who was not 
born till fourteen years after Fielding, eight years after 
Sterne, and who has been moved up, I presume, simply 
from caprice. From the birth of the first to the death of 
the last, was a period of nearly a hundred years. They 
were never absolutely all alive together ; but it was nearly 
so, Addison and Prior having died before Smollett was born. 
Whether we should accept as humorists the full cata- 
logue, may be a question ; though we shall hardly wish to 
eliminate any one from such a dozen of names. Pope we 
should hardly define as a humorist, were we to be seek- 
ing for a definition specially fit for him, though we shall 
certainly not deny the gift of humour to the author of The 
Rape of the Lock, or to the translator of any portion of 
TJie Odyssey. NOT should we have included Fielding or 
Smollett, in spite of Parson Adams and Tabitha Bramble, 
unless anxious to fill a good company. That Hogarth 
was specially a humorist no one will deny ; but in speak- 
ing of humorists we should have presumed, unless other- 
wise notified, that humorists in letters only had been 
intended. As Thackeray explains clearly what lie means 
by a humorist, I may as well here repeat the passage, 



158 THACKERAY. [CHAP. 

" If humour only meant laughter, you would scarcely feel 
more interest about humorous writers than about the 
private life of poor Harlequin just mentioned, who pos- 
sesses in common with these the power of making you 
laugh. But the men regarding whose lives and stories 
your kind presence here shows that you have curiosity and 
sympathy, appeal to a great number of our other faculties, 
besides our mere sense of ridicule. The humorous writer 
professes to awaken and direct your love, your pity, your 
kindness, your scorn for untruth, pretension, imposture, 
your tenderness for the weak, the poor, the oppressed, 
the unhappy. To the best of his means and ability ho 
comments on all the ordinary actions and passions of 
life almost. He takes upon himself to be the week-day 
preacher, so to speak. Accordingly, as he finds, and 
speaks, and feels the truth best, we regard him, esteem 
him, sometimes love him. And as his business is to 
mark other people's lives and peculiarities, we moralise 
upon his life when he is gone, and yesterday's preacher 
becomes the text for to-day's sermon." 

Having thus explained his purpose, Thackeray begins 
his task, and puts Swift in his front rank as a humorist. 
The picture given of this great man has very manifestly 
the look of truth, and if true, is terrible indeed. We do, 
in fact, know it to be true, even though it be admitted 
that there is still room left for a book to be written on 
the life of the fearful dean. Here was a man endued with 
an intellect pellucid as well as brilliant ; who could not 
only conceive but see also, with some fine instincts too; 
whom fortune did not flout; whom circumstances fairly 
served ; but who, from first to last, was miserable himself, 
who made others miserable, and who deserved misery. Our 
business, during the page or two which we can give to the 



.vn.] THACKERAY'S LECTURES. 159 

subject, is not with Swift but with Thackeray's picture of 
Swift, It is painted with colours terribly strong and with 
shadows fearfully deep. Would you like to have lived 
with him? " Thackeray asks. Then he says how pleasant 
it would have been to have passed some time with Field- 
ing, Johnson, or Goldsmith. " I should like to have been 
Shakespeare's shoeblack," he says. " But Swift ! If you 
had been his inferior in parts, and that, with a great 
respect for all persons present, I fear is only very likely, 
his equal in mere social station, he would have bullied, 
scorned, and insulted you. If, undeterred by his great 
reputation, you had met him like a man, he would have 
quailed before you and not had the pluck to reply, and 
gone home, and years after written a foul epigram upon 
you. 3 ' There is a picture ! " If you had been a lord with 
a blue riband, who flattered his vanity, or could help his 
ambition, he would have been the most delightful com- 
pany in the world How he would have torn your 

enemies to pieces for you, and made fun of the Opposition ! 
His servility was so boisterous that it looked like inde- 
pendence." He was a man whose mind was never fixed 
on high things, but was striving always after something 
which, little as it might be, and successful as he was, 
should always be out of his reach. It had been his mis- 
fortune to become a clergyman, because the way to church 
preferment seemed to be the readiest He became, as we all 
know, a dean, but never a bishop, and was therefore 
wretched. Thackeray describes him as a clerical highway- 
man, seizing on all he could get. But " the great prize has 
not yet come. The coach with the mitre and crozier in 
it, which he intends to have for Ms share, has been delayed 
bn the way from St. James's ; and lie waits and waits till 
nightfall, when his runners come and tell him that the 



160 TEACKEBAY. [CHAP. 

coach has taken a different way and escaped him. So he 
fires his pistol into the air with a curse, and rides away 
into his own country ; " or, in other words, takes a poor 
deanery in Ireland. 

Thackeray explains very correctly, as I think, the 
nature of the weapons which the man used, namely, 
the words and style with which he wrote. " That Swift 
was born at No. 7, Hoey's Court, Dublin, on November 30, 
1667, is a certain fact, of which nobody will deny the 
sister-island the honour and glory ; but it seems to me he 
was no more an Irishman than a man born of English 
parents at Calcutta is a Hindoo. Goldsmith was an 
Irishman and always an Irishman ; Steele was an Irishman 
and always an Irishman ; Swift's heart was English and 
in England, his habits English, his logic eminently 
English ; his statement is elaborately simple ; he shuns 
tropes and metaphors, and uses his ideas and words with 
a wise thrift and economy, as he used his money ; with 
which he could be generous and splendid upon great 
occasions, but which he husbanded when there was no 
need to spend it. He never indulges in needless extrava- 
gance of rhetoric, lavish epithets, profuse imagery. 
He lays his opinions before you with a grave simplicity 
and a perfect neatness." This is quite true of him, and 
the result is that though you may deny him sincerity, 
simplicity, humanity, or good taste, you can hardly find 
fault with his language. 

Swift was a clergyman, and this is what Thackeray 
says of him in regard to his sacred profession. " I know 
of few things more conclusive as to the sincerity of 
Swift's religion, than his advice to poor John Gay to 
turn clergyman, and look out for a seat on the Bench 1 
Gay, the author of The Beggar's Opera; Gay, the 



m.] THACKERAY'S LECTURES. 161 

wildest of the wits about town ! It was this man that 
Jonathan Swift advised to take orders, to mount in a 
cassock and hands, just as he advised him to husband 
his shillings, and put his thousand pounds out to 
interest." 

It was not that he was without religion, or without, 
rather> his religious beliefs and doubts, "for Swift," 
says Thackeray, "was a reverent, was a pious spirit. 
For Swift could love and could pray." Left to 
himself and to the natural thoughts of his mind, withr 
out those " orders " to which he had bound himself as 
a necessary part of his trade, he could have turned 
to his God with questionings which need not then have 
been heartbreaking. " It is my belief," says Thackeray, 
" that he suffered frightfully from the consciousness of 
his own scepticism, and that he had bent his pride so 
far down as to put his apostasy out to hire/* I doubt 
whether any of Swift's works are very much read now, 
but perhaps Gulliver's travels are oftener in the hands of 
modern readers than any other. Of all the satires in our 
language it is probably the most cynical, the most abso- 
lutely illnatured, and therefore the falsest. Let those 
who care to form an opinion of Swift's mind from the 
best known of his works, turn to Thackeray's account 
of Gulliver. I can imagine no greater proof of misery 
than to have been able to write such a book as that. 

It is thus that the lecturer concludes his lecture about 
Swift. " He shrank away from all affections sooner or 
later, Ste.Ua and Vanessa both died near him, and away 
from him. He had not heart enough to see them die. 
He broke from his fastest friend, Sheridan. He slunk 
away from his fondest admirer, Pope. His laugh jars on 
one's, ear after seven-score years. He was always alone, 



162 TEACEJIEAY. [CHAP. 

alone and gnashing in the darkness, except when Stella's 
sweet smile came and shone on him. When that went, 
silence and utter night closed over him. An immense 
genius, an awful downfall and ruin I So great a man he 
seems to me, that thinking of him is like thinking of an 
empire falling. We have other great names to mention, 
none I think, however, so great or so gloomy." And so 
we pass on from Swift, feeling that though the man was- 
certainly a humorist, we have had as yet but little to do 
with humour. 

Congreve is the next who, however truly he may have 
been a humorist, is described here rather as a man of 
fashion. A man of fashion he certainly was, but is best 
known in our literature as a comedian, worshipping that 
comic Muse to whom Thackeray hesitates to introduce his 
audience, because she is not only merry but shameless 
also. Congreve's muse was about as bad as any muse 
that ever misbehaved herself, and I think, as little 
amusing. " Beading in these plays now," says Thackeray, 
" is like shutting your ears and looking at people dancing. 
What does it mean? the measures, the grimaces, the 
bowing, shuffling, and retreating, the cavaliers seuls ad- 
vancing upon their ladies, then ladies and men twirling 
round at the end in a mad galop, after which everybody 
bows and the quaint rite is celebrated $ " It is always 
so with Congreve's plays, and Etherege's and Wycherley's. 
The world we meet there is not our world, and as we read 
the plays we have no sympathy with these unknown 
people. It was not that they lived so long ago. They 
are much ,nearer to us in time than the men and women 
who figured on the stage in the reign of James I. But 
their nature is farther from our nature. They sparkle 
but never wao;m. They are witty but leave no impres- 



vn.] TEACKEKAY'S LECTURES. 163 

sion. I might almost go further, and say that they are 
wicked but never allure. " When Voltaire came to visit 
the Great Congreve," says Thackeray, "the latter rather 
affected to despise his literary reputation ; and in this, 
perhaps, the great Congreve was not far wrong. A touch 
of Steele's tenderness is worth all his finery ; a flash of 
Swift's lightning, a heam of Addison's pure sunshine, 
and his tawdry playhouse taper is invisible, But the 
ladies loved him, and he was undoubtedly a pretty 
fellow." 

There is no doubt as to the true humour of Addison, 
who next comes up before us, but I think that he makes 
hardly so good a subject for a lecturer as the great gloomy 
man of intellect, or the frivolous man of pleasure. 
Thackeray tells us all that is to be said about him as a 
humorist in so few lines that I may almost insert them 
on this page : " But it is not for his reputation as the 
great author of Cato and The Campaign, or for his merits 
as Secretary of State, or for his rank and high distinction 
as Lady Warwick's husband, or for his eminence as an 
examiner of political questions on the Whig side, or a 
guardian of British liberties, that we admire Joseph 
Addison. It is as a Tattler of small talk and a Spectator 
of mankind that we cherish and love him, and owe as 
much pleasure to him as to any human being that ever 
wrote. He came in that artificial age, and began to speak 
with his noble natural voice., He came the gentle satirist, 
who hit no unfair blow ; the kind judge, who castigated 
only in smiling. While Swift went about hanging and 
mthless, a literary Jeffreys, in Addison's kind court only 
minor cases were tried ; only peccadilloes and small sins 
against society, only a dangerous libertinism in tuckers 
and hoops, or a nuisance in the abuse of beaux canes, and 



164 THAOKEEAT. 

snuffboxes." Steele set Tlie Tatler a going. " But with 
his friend's discovery of The Tatler, Addison's calling 
was found, and the most delightful Tattler in the world 
began to speak. He does not go very deep. Let gentle- 
men of a profound genius, critics accustomed to the 
plunge of the bathos, console themselves by thinking 
that he couldn't go very deep. There is no trace of 
suffering in his writing. He was so good, so honest, so 
Wealthy, so cheerfully selfish, if I must use the word ! w 

Such was Addison as a humorist; and when the 
bearer shall have heard also, or the reader read, that 
this most charming Tattler also wrote Cato, became a 
Secretary of State, and married a countess, he will have 
learned all that Thackeray had to tell of him. 

Steele was one who stood much less high in the 
world's esteem, and who left behind him a much smaller 
name, but was quite Addison's equal as a humorist and 
a wit. Addison, though he had the reputation of a 
toper, was respectability itself. Steele was almost always 
disreputable. He was brought from Ireland, placed at 
the Charter House, and then transferred to Oxford, where 
he became acquainted with Addison. Thackeray says 
that "Steele found Addison a stately college don at 
Oxford." The stateliness and the don's rank were 
attributable no doubt to the more sober character ,of the 
English lad, for, in fact, the two men were born in the 
same year, 1672. Steele, who during his life was 
affected by various different tastes, first turned himself 
to literature, "but early in life was bitten by the hue of 
a red coat and became a trooper in the Horse Guards. 
To the end he vacillated in the same way. "In that 
charming paper in The Tatler, in which he records his 
father's death, his mother's grief s 2 his own most solemn 



VIL] TEACKEItAY'S ECTURES. 165 

and tender emotions, he says he 'is interrupted by the 
arrival of a hamper of wine, ' the same as is to be sold 
at Garraway's next week;' upon the receipt of which 
he sends for three friends, and they fall to instantly, 
drinking two bottles apiece, with great benefit to them- 
selves, and not separating till two o'clock in the 
morning." 

He had two wives, whom he loved dearly and treated 
badly. He hired grand houses, and bought fine horses 
for which he could never pay. He was often religious, 
but more often drunk. As a man of letters, other men of 
letters who followed him, such as Thackeray, could not 
be very proud of him. But everybody loved him ; and 
he seems to have been the inventor of that flying 
literature which, with many changes in form and manner, 
has done so much for the amusement and edification of 
readers ever since his time. He was always commencing, 
or carrying on, often editing, some one of the numerous 
periodicals which appeared during his time. Thackeray 
mentions seven: The Tatler, Th& Spectator, TJie 
Guardian, TJie Englishman, The Lover, The Reader, 
and The ' Theatre ; that three of them are well known 
to this day, the three first named, and are to be 
found in all libraries, is proof that his life was not 
thrown away. 

I almost question Prior's right to be in the list, unless 
indeed the mastery over well-turned conceits is to be 
included within the border of humour. But Thackeray 
had a strong liking for Prior, and in his own humorous 
way rebukes his audience for not being familiar with Tfie 
'Town and Country Mouse. He says that Prior's epigrams 
have the genuine sparkle, and compares Prior to Horace. 
'" His song, his philosophy, his good sense, "his happy easy 



166 THAOKEEAT. [CHAP. 

turns and melody, his loves and his epicureanism bear a 
great resemblance to that most delightful and accom- 
plished master." I cannot say that I agree with this. 
Prior is generally neat in his expression. Horace is 
happy, which is surely a great deal more. 
: All that is said of Gay, Pope, Hogarth, Smollett, and 
Fielding is worth reading, and may be of great value both 
to those who have not time to study the authors, and to 
those who desire to have their own judgments somewhat 
guided, somewhat assisted. That they were all men of 
humour there can be no doubt. Whether either of them, 
.except perhaps Gay ; would have been specially ranked as 
a humorist among men of letters, may be a question. 

Sterne was a humorist, and employed his pen in that 
.line, if ever a writer did so, and so was Goldsmith. Of 
the excellence and largeness of the disposition of the one, 
and the meanness and littleness of the other, it is not 
necessary that I should here say much. But I will give 
ft short passage from our author as to each. He has been 
quoting somewhat at length from Sterne, and thus he 
ends ; " And with this pretty dance and chorus the 
volume artfully concludes. Even here one can't give the 
whole description. There is not a page in Sterne/s writing 
,but has something that were better away, a latent cor- 
ruption, a hint as of an impure presence. , Some of that 
dreary double entendre may be attributed to freer times 
and manners than ours, but not all. The foul satyr's 
eyes leer out of the leaves constantly. The last words the 
famous author wrote were bad and wicked. The last 
lines the poor stricken wretch penned were for pity and 
pardon." Now a line or two about Goldsmith, and I will 
then let my reader go to the volume and study the lectures 
for himself. " The poor fellow was never so friendless 



VIT.] THACKEBATS LECTURES. 167 

but that he could befriend some one ; never so pinched 
and wretched but he could give of his crust, and speak 
his word of compassion. If he had but his flute left, he 
would give that, and make the children happy in the 
dreary London courts." 

Of this too I will remind my readers, those who have 
bookshelves well-filled to adorn their houses, that Gold- 
smith stands in the front where all the young people see the 
volumes. There are few among the young people who do 
not refresh their sense of humour occasionally from that 
shelf, Sterne is relegated to some distant and high corner. 
The less often that he is taken down the better. Thackeray 
makes some half excuse for him because of the greater 
freedom of the times. But " the times " were the same 
for the two. Both Sterne and Goldsmith wrote In the 
reign of George IL ; both died in the reign of George TIT. 



CHAPTER VIII. 

THACKERAY'S 'BALLADS. ' 

WE have a volume of Thackeray's poems, republished 
under the name of Ballads^ which is, I think, to a great 
extent a misnomer. They are all readable, almost all 
good, - f till of humour, and with some fine touches of 
pathos, most happy in their versification, and, with a few 
exceptions, hitting well on the head the nail which he in- 
tended to hit. But they are not on that account ballads. 
Literally, a ballad is a song, but it has come to signify 
a short chronicle in verse, which may be political, or 
pathetic, or grotesque, or it may have all three character- 
istics or any two of them ; but not on that account is 
any grotesque poem a ballad, nor, .of course, any 
pathetic or any political poem. Jacob Omnium's Hoss may 
fairly be called a ballad, containing as it does a chronicle 
of a certain well-defined transaction; and the story of 
King Canute is a ballad, one of the best that has been 
produced in our language in modern years. But such 
pieces as those called The End of the Play and Vanitas 
Vanitatum, which are didactic as well as pathetic, are not 
ballads in the common sense ; nor are such songs as 
The Mahogany Tree, or the little collection called Love 
Songs made Easy. The majority of the pieces are not 



CHAP, vin.] THACKERAY'S BALLADS. 169 

ballads, but if they be good of the kind we should be 
ungrateful to quarrel much with the name. 

How very good most of them are, I did not know till I 
re-read them for the purpose of writing this chapter. There 
is a manifest falling off in some few, which has come 
from that source of literary failure which is now so 
common, If a man write a book or a poem because it is 
in him to write it, the motive power being altogether in 
himself and coming from his desire to express himself, 
he, will write it well, presuming him to be capable of the 
effort. But if he write his book or poem simply because 
a book or poem is required from him, let his capability be 
what it may, it is not unlikely that he will do it badly. 
Thackeray occasionally suffered from the weakness thus 
produced. A ballad from Policeman X,Bow Street 
Ballads they were first called, was required by Punch, 
and had to be forthcoming, whatever might be the poet's 
humour, by a certain time. Jacob Omnium's Hoss is ex- 
cellent. His heart and feeling were all there, on behalf 
of his friend, and against that obsolete old court of justice. 
But we can tell well when he was looking through the 
police reports for a subject, and taking what chance might 
send him, without any special interest in the matter. 
The Knight and the Lady of Bath, and the Damages 
Two Hundred Pounds, as they were demanded at Guild- 
ford, taste as though they were written to order. 

Here, in his verses as in his prose, the charm of 
Thackeray's work lies in the mingling of humour with 
pathos and indignation. There is hardly a piece that is 
not more or less funny, hardly a piece that is not satirical ; 
and in most of them, for those who will look a little 
below the surface, there is something that will touch 
them. Thackeray, though he rarely uttered a word, either 



170 THACKERAY. [CHAP. 

with his pea or his mouth, in which there was not an 
intention to reach our sense of humour, never was only 
funny. When he was most determined to make us laugh, 
he had always a further purpose ; some pity was to be 
extracted from us on "behalf of the sorrows of men, or 
some indignation at the evil done by them. 
1 This is the beginning of that story as to the Two 
Hundred Pounds, for which as a ballad I do not care very 
much: 

Special jurymen o England who admire your country's laws, 
And proclaim a British jury worthy of the nation's applause, 
. Gaily compliment each other at the issue of a cause, 

Which was tried at Guildf ord 'sizes, this day week as ever was. 

Here he is indignant, not only in regard to some mis- 
carriage of justice on that special occasion, but at the 
general unfitness of jurymen for the work confided to 
them. " Gaily compliment yourselves," he says, " on your 
beautiful constitution, from which come such beautiful 
results as those I am going to tell you ! " When he re- 
minded us that Ivanhoe had produced Magna Charta, 
there was a purpose of irony even there in regard to our 
vaunted freedom. With all your Magna Charta and your 
juries, what are you but snobs ! There is nothing so 
often misguided as general indignation, and I think that 
in his judgment of outside things, in the measure which 
he usually took of them, Thackeray was very frequently 
misguided. A satirist by trade will learn to satirise every- 
thing, till the light of the sun and the moon's loveliness 
will become evil and mean to him. I think that he was 
'mistaken in his views of things. But we have to do 
with him as a writer, not as a political economist or a 
politician. His indignation was all true, and the ex- 
pression of it was often perfect. The lines in which he 



THACKERAY'S BALLADS. 171 

addresses that Pallia Court, at the end of Jacob 
t Omnium's Hoss, are almost sublime. 

Pallis Court, you move Come down" from that tribewn, 

My pity most profound. Thou shameless and unjust ; 

A most amusing sport Thou swindle, picking pockets in 

" You thought it, I'll be bound, The name of Truth august ; 
To saddle hup a three-pound Come down, thou hoary Bias- 
debt, ( . phemy, 
, With two-and-twenty pound. For die thou shalt and must. 

Good sport it is to you And go it, Jacob Homnium, 

, To grind the honest poor, And ply your iron pen, 

To pay their just or unjust debts And rise up, Sir John Jervis, 

With eight hundred per cent., And shut me up that den ; 

for Lor ; That sty for fattening lawyers 

Make haste and get your costes in, in, 

They will not last much mor ! On the bones of honest men. 

"Come down from that tribewn, thou shameless and 
unjust I " It is impossible not to feel that he felt this as 
he wrote it. 

. ; There is a branch of his poetry which he calls, or 
which at any rate is now called, Lyra Hybernica, for which 
no doubt TJie Groves of, Blarney was his model. There 
have Tbeen many imitations siDce, of which perhaps Barham's 
Ballad on the coronation was the best, " When to West- 
minster the Eoyal Spinster and the Duke of Leinster all in 
order did repair 1 " Thackeray in some of his attempts 
has been equally droll and equally graphic. That on The 
Cristal Palace, not that at Sydenham, but its forerunner, 
the palace of the Great Exhibition, -is very good, as the 
following catalogue of its contents will show ; 

There's holy saints Alhamborough Jones 

And window paints, Did paint the tones 

By .Maydiayval Puginj Of. yellow and gambouge in. * 



172 



THACKERAY. 



[CHAP. 



There's fountains there 
And crosses fair ; 

There's water-gods with urns; 
There's organs three, 
To play, d'y see ? 

" God save the Queen," by 
turns. 

There's statues bright 
Of marble white, 

Of silver, and of copper; 
And some in zinc, 
And some, I think 

That isn't over proper. 

There's staym ingynes, 
.That stands in lines, 

Enormous and amazing, 
That squeal and snort 
Like whales in sport, 

Or elephants a grazing. 



There's carts and gigs, 
And pins for pigs, 

There's dibblers and there's 

harrows, 

And ploughs like toys 
For little boys, 

And ilegant wheel-barrows. 

For thim genteels 
Who ride on wheels, 

There's plenty to indulge 'em 
There's droskys snug 
From Paytersbug, 

And vayhycles fromBulgium. 

There's cabs on stands 
And shandthry danns ; 
There's waggons from New 

York here ; 

There's Lapland sleighs 
Have cross'd the seas, 

And jaunting cyars from 
Cork here. 



In writing this Thackeray was a little late with, his 
copy for Punch; not, we should say, altogether an 
uncommon accident to Mm. It should have been with 
the editor early on Saturday, if not before, but did not 
come till late on Saturday evening. The editor, who was 
among men the most good-natured and I should think 
the most forbearing, either could not, or in this case would 
not, insert it in the next week's issue, and Thackeray, 
angry and disgusted, sent it to The Times. In The Times 
of next Monday it appeared, very much I should think 
to the delight of the readers of that august newspaper. 

Mr. Molony's account of the ball given to th<f 
Nepaulese ambassadors by the Peninsular and Oriental 
Company, is so like Barnaul's coronation in the account 



THACKERAY'S BALLADS. 173 

it gives of the guests, that one would fancy it must be by 
the same hand. 

The noble Chair 1 stud at the stair 
And bade the dhrums to thump ; and he 

Did thus evince to that Black Prince 
The welcome of his Company. 3 

fair the girls and rich the curls, 
And bright the oys you saw there was 

And fixed each oye you then could spoi 
On General Jung Bahawther was ! 

This gineral great then tuck his sate, 

With all the other ginerals, 
Bedad his troat, his belt, his coat, 

All bleezed with precious minerals; 
And as he there, with princely air, 

Recloinin on his cushion was, 
All round about his royal chair 

The squeezin and the pushin was. 

Pat, such girls, such jukes and earls, 

Such fashion and nobilitee I 
Just think of Tim, and fancy Mm, 

Amidst the high gentilitee ! 
There was the Lord de L'Huys, and the Portygeese 

Ministher and his lady there, 
And I recognised, with much surprise, 

Our messmate, Bob O'Grady, there. 

All these are very good fun, so good in humour and 
so good in expression, that it would be needless to criticise 
their peculiar dialect, were it not that Thackeray has made 
for himself a reputation by his writing of Irish. In this< 
he has been so entirely successful that for many English 

. * Chair i.e. Chairman. 2 I.e. The P. and 0. Company. 



174 TEACKEBAY. [CHAP. 

readers lie has established a new language which may not 
improperly be called Hybernico-Thackerayan. If comedy 
is to be got from peculiarities of dialect, as no doubt it is, 
one form will do as well as another, so long as those who 
read it know no better. So it has been with Thackeray's 
Irish, for in truth he was not familiar with the modes of 
pronunciation which make up Irish brogue. Therefore, 
though he is always droll, he is not true to nature. Many 
an Irishman coming to London, not unnaturally tries to 
imitate the talk of Londoners. You or I, reader, were we 
from the West, and were the dear County Galway to send 
either of us to Parliament, would probably endeavour to 
drop the dear brogue of our country, and in doing so we 
should make some mistakes. It was these mistakes which 
Thackeray took for the natural Irish tone. He was 
amused to hear a major called " Meejor," but was unaware 
that the sound arose from Pat's affection of English soft- 
ness of speech. The expression natural to the unadulter- 
ated Irishman would rather be " Ma-ajor." He discovers his 
own provincialism, and trying to be polite and urbane, he 
says " Meejor." In one of the lines I have quoted there 
occurs the word "troat." Such a sound never came 
naturally from the mouth of an Irishman. He puts in an 
h instead of omitting it, and says " dhrink." He comes 
to London, and finding out that he is wrong with his 
"dhrink," he leaves out all the h's he can, and 
thus comes to " troat." It is this which Thackeray has 
heard. There is a little piece called the Last Irish 
Grievance, to which Thackeray adds a still later grievance, 
by the false sounds which he elicits from the calumniated 
mouth of the pretended Irish poet. Slaves are " sleeves/' 
places are "pleeces," Lord John is "Lard Jahn," fatal 
is "fetal," danger is "deenger," and native is "neetive." 



TEACKERATS BALLADS. 175 

All these are unintended slanders. Tea, Hibernice", is 
"tay," please is "plaise," sea is "say," and ease is 
" aise." The softer sound of e is broadened out by the 
natural Irishman, not, to my ear, without a certain 
euphony; but no one in Ireland says or hears the 
reverse. The Irishman who in London might talk of 
his " neetive " race, would be mincing his words to please 
the ear of the cockney. 

The Chronicle of the Drum would be a true ballad 
all through, were it not that there is tacked on to it a 
long moral in an altered metre. I do not much value the 
moral, but the ballad is excellent, not only in much of its 
versification and in the turns of its language, but in the 
quaint and true picture it gives of the Trench nation. 
The drummer, either by himself or by some of his family, 
has drummed through a century of French battling, 
caring much for his country and its glory, but under- 
standing nothing of the causes for which he is enthu- 
siastic. Whether for King, Eepublic,' or Emperor, 
whether fighting and conquering or fighting and con- 
quered, he is " happy as long as he can beat his drum 
on a field of glory. Bat throughout his adventures there 
is a touch of chivalry about our drummer. -In all the , 
episodes of his country's career he feels much of patriotism 
and something of tenderness. It is thus he sings during 
the days of the Eevolution : 

We had taken the head of King Capet, 

We called for the blood of his wife ,* 
Undaunted she came to the scaffold, 

And bared her fair neck to the knife. 
As she felt the foul fingers that touched her, 

She shrank, but she deigned not to speak j 
She looked with a royal disdain, 
, And died with a blusl^ 99, her cheek [ 



176 THACKERAY. [CHAP. 

'Twas thus that our country was saved! 

So told us the Safety Committee ! 
But, psha, I've the heart of a soldier, 

All gentleness, mercy, and pity. 
I loathed to assist at such deeds, 

And my drum beat its loudest of tunes. 
As we offered to justice offended, 

The blood of the bloody tribunes. 

Away with such foul recollection si 

No more of the axe and the block. 
I saw the last fight of the sections, 

As they fell 'neath our guns at St. Rock. 
Young Bonaparte led us that day. 

And so it goes on. I will not continue the stanza, 
because it contains the worst rhyme that Thackeray ever 
permitted himself to use. Th.e Chronicle of the Drum has 
not the finish which he achieved afterwards, "but it is full 
of national feeling, and carries on its purpose to the end 
with an admirable persistency ; 

A curse on those British assassins 

Who ordered the slaughter of Key j 
A curse on Sir Hudson who tortured 

The life of our hero away. 
A curse on all Russians, I hate them* 

On all Prussian and Austrian fry ; 
And, oh, but I pray we may meet them 

And fight them again ere I die. 

TJie White Squall, which I can hardly call a ballad, 
unless any description of a scene in verse maybe included 
in the name, is surely one of the most graphic descrip- 
tions ever put into verse. Nothing written by Thackeray 
shows more plainly his power over words and rhymes. 
He draws his picture without a line omitted or ; a line too 
much, saying with .apparent facility all that he' has to say, 



VITL] THACKERAY'S BALLADS. 177 

and so saying it that every word conveys its natural 
meaning. 

When a squall, upon a sudden, 

Came o'er the waters scudding ; 

And the clouds began to gather, 

And the sea was lashed to lather, 

And the lowering thunder grumbled, 

And the lightning jumped and tumbled, 

And the ship and all the ocean 

Woke up in wild commotion. 

Then the wind set up a howling, 

And the poodle dog a yowling, 

And the cocks began a crowing, 

And the old cow raised a lowing, 

As she heard the tempest blowing 5 

And fowls and geese did cackle, 

And the cordage and the tackle 

Began to shriek and crackle ; 

And the spray dashed o'er the funnels, 

And down the deck in runnels ; 

And the rushing" water soaks all, 

From the seamen in the fo'ksal 

To the stokers whose black faces 

Peer out of their bed-places ; 

And the captain, he was bawling, 

And the sailors pulling, hauling, 

And the quarter-deck tarpauling 

Was shivered in the squalling ; 

And the passengers awaken, 

Most pitifully shaken ; 

And the steward jumps up and hastens 

For the necessary basins. 

Then the Greeks they groaned and quivered. 
And they knelt, and moaned, and shivered, 
As the plunging waters met them, 
And splashed and overset them 5 
And they call in their emergence 
Upon countless saints and virgins ; 
And their marrowbones are bended, 
And they think; the world is ended. 



178 THACKERAY. [CHAP. 

And the Turkish women for'ard 
Were frightened and behorror'd ; 
And shrieking and bewildering, 
The mothers clutched their children ; 
The men sang " Allah ! Illah ! 
Mashallah Bis^millah ! " 
As the warning waters doused them, 
And splashed them and soused them 
And they called upon the Prophet, 
And thought but little of it. 

Then all the fleas in Jewry 

Jumped up and bit like fury j 

And the progeny of Jacob 

Did on the main- deck wake up, 

(I wot these greasy Babbins 

Would never pay for cabins) ; 

And each man moaned and jabbered in 

His filthy Jewish gaberdine, 

In woe and lamentation, 

And howliug consternation. 

And the splashing water drenches 

Their dirty brats and wenches ; 

And they crawl from bales and benches, 

In a hundred thousand stenches. 

This was the White Squall famous, 

Which latterly o'ercame us. 

Peg of Limavaddy has always been very popular, and 
the public have not, I think, been generally aware that 
the young lady in question lived in truth at Newton 
Limavady (with one d). But with the correct name 
Thackeray would hardly have been so successful with his 
rhymes. 

Citizen or Squire 

Tory, Whig, or Radi- 
Cal would all desire 

Peg of Limavaddy. 



VIIL] THACKERAY'S BALLADS. 179 

Had I 'Homer's fire 

Or that of Sergeant Taddy 
Meetly I'd admire 

Peg of Limavaddy. 
And till I expire 

Or till I go mad I 
Will sing unto my lyre 

Peg of Limavaddy, 

The Cane-bottomed Chair is another, better, I think, 
than Peg of Limavaddy t as containing tha-t mixture of 
burlesque with the pathetic which belonged so peculiarly 
to Thackeray, and which was indeed the very essence of 
his genius. 

But of all the cheap treasures that garnish my nest, 
There's one that I love and I cherish the "best. 

For the finest of couches thatfs padded with hair 
I never would change thee, my cane-bottomed chair. 

'Tis a bandy. legged, high-bottomed, worm-eaten seat, 

TVith a creaking old back and twisted old feet j 
But since the fair morning when Fanny safe there, 

I bless thee and love thee, old cane-bottomed chair. 

* * # * 

sne comes from the past and revisits my room, 

She looks as she then did all beauty and bloom j 
So smiling and tender, so fresh and so fair, 

And yonder she sits in my cane-bottomed chair. 

This, in the volume which 1 nave now before me, is 
followed by a picture of Fanny in the chair, to which I 
cannot but take exception. I am, quite sure that when 
Fanny graced the room and seated herself in the chair 
of her old bachelor friend, she had npt on a low dress and 
loosely-flowing drawing-room shawl, nor was there a foot- 
stool ready for her feet. - I doubt also the headgear. Fanny 
on that occasion -was -dressed on aer morning apparel, and 

N 2 



180 THACKERAY. [CHAP. 

had walked through the streets, carried no fan, and wore 
no brooch "but one that might be necessary for pinning her 
shawl. 

The Great Cossack Epic is the longest of the ballads. It 
is a legend of St. Sophia of Kioff, telling how Father 
Hyacinth, by the aid of St. Sophia, whose wooden statue 
he carried with him, escaped across the Borysthenes with 
all th-e Cossacks at his tail. It is very good fun ; but not 
equal to many of the others, !Nbr is the Carmen Lilliense 
quite to my taste. I should not have declared at once 
that it had come from Thackeray's hand, had I not 
known it. . 

But who could doubt the Bouillabaisse ? Who else 
could have written that 1 ? "Who at the same moment could 
have been so merry and so melancholy, could have gone 
so deep into the regrets of life, with words so appropriate 
to its jollities 1 I do not know how far my readers will 
agree with, me that to read It always must be a fresh 
pleasure ; but in order that they may agree with me, if 
they can, I will give it to them entire. If there be one 
whom it does not please, he will like nothing that 
Thackeray ever wrote in verse. ; 

THE BALLAD OF BOUILLABAISSE. 

A street there is in Paris famous, 

For which no rhyme our language yields, 
Ene Neuve des Petits Champs its name is 

The New Street of the Little Fields; 
And here's an inn, not rich and splendid, 

But still in comfortable case ; 
The which in youth I oft attended, 

To eat a bowl of Bouillabaisse. 

This Bouillabaisse a noble dish is, 
A sort of soup, or broth, or brew 



THACKERAY'S BALLADS. 

Or hotch-potch, of all sorts of fishes, 
That Greenwich never could outdo ; 

Green herbs, red peppers, mussels, saffron, 
Soles, onions, garlic, roach, and dace ; 

All these you eat at Terre's tavern, 
In that one dish of Bouillabaisse, 

Indeed, a rich and savoury stew 'tis ; 

And true philosophers, methinks, 
Who love all sorts of natural beauties, 

Should love good victuals and good drinks. 
And Cordelier or Benedictine 

Might gladly sure his lot embrace, 
Nor find a fast-day too afflicting 

Which served him up a Bouillabaisse. 

I wonder if the house still there is ? 

Yes, here the lamp is, as before ; 
The smiling red-cheeked ecaillere is 

Still opening oysters at the door. 
Is Terre still alive and able ? 

I recollect his droll grimace ; 
He'd come and smile before your table, 

And hope you liked your Bouillabaisse. 

We enter, nothing's changed or older. ; 

** How's Monsieur Terre", waiter, pray ? ** 
The waiter stares and shrugs his shoulder, 

" Monsieur is dead this many a day." 
" It is the lot of saint and sinner ; 

So honest Terras run his race." 
" What will Monsieur require for dinner ? " 

" Say, do you still cook Bouillabaisse ? " 

" Oh, oui, Monsieur,'* 's the waiter's answer, 

" Quel vin Monsieur de*sire-t-il ? " 
*' Tell me a good one." " That I can, sir : 

The chambertin with yellow seal." 
" So Terre's gone," I say, and sink in 

My old accustom'd corner-place ; 
"He's done with feasting and with drinking, 

With Burgundy and Bouillabaisse/' 



182 THACKERAY. [GHAP 

My dd accustomed corner here is, 

The table still is in the nook ; 
' Ah ! vanish'd many a busy year is 

This well-known chair since last I took. 
When first I saw ye, cari luoghi, 

I'd scarce a beard upon my face, 
And now a grizzled, grim old fogy, 

I sit and wait for Bouillabaisse. 

Where are you, old companions trusty, 

Of early days here met to dine ? 
Come, waiter ! quick, a flagon crusty 5 

I'll pledge them, in the good old wine. 
The Mnd old voices and old faces 

My memory can quick retrace j 
Around the board they take their places, 
share the wine and Bouillabaisse. 



There's Jack has made a wondrous marriage ; 

There's laughing Tom is laughing yet ; 
There's brave Augustus drives his carriage ; 

There's poor old Fred in the ; Gazette ; 
O'er James's head the grass is growing. 

Good Lord ! the world has wagged apace 
Since here we set the claret flowing, 
And drank, and ate the Bouillabaisse, 

At me ! how quick the clays are flitting ! 

I mind me of a time that's gone, 
When nere I'd sit, as now I'm sitting, 

In this same place, but not alone* . " 
A fair young face was nestled near m'e, 

A dear, dear facq. looked fondly up, 
And ,sweetly spoke and smiled to cheer ine ! 

There's no one now to share my cup. 



I drink it as the Fates ordain it. 

Come fill it, and have done with rhymes ; 
FilJ up the lonely glass, and drain it 

In memory of dear old times.- - ' " 



vin.] THACKERAY'S BALLADS. 183 

Welcome the wine, whate'er the seal is ; 

And sit you down and say your grace 
With thankful heart, whate'er the meal is. 

Here comes the smoking Bouillabaisse. 

I am not disposed to say that Thackeray will hold a 
high place among English poets. He would have been 
the first to ridicule such an assumption made on his 
behalf. But I think that his verses will be more popular 
than those of many highly reputed poets, and that as years 
roll on they will gain rather than lose in public estimation. 



CHAPTER IX. 
THACKERAY'S STYLE AND MANNER OF WOEK. 

A NOVEL in style should be easy, lucid, and of course 
grammatical. The same may he said of any hook ; hut that 
which is intended to recreate should he easily understood, 
for which purpose lucid narration is an essential. In 
matter it should he moral and amusing. In manner it 
may he realistic, or sublime, or ludicrous; or it may 
be all these if the author can combine them. As to 
Thackeray's performance in style and matter I will say 
something further on. His manner was mainly realistic, 
and I will therefore speak first of that mode of expres- 
sion which was peculiarly his own. 

Realism in style has not all the ease which seems to 
belong to it It is the object of the author who affects 
it so to communicate with his reader that all his words 
shall seem, to be natural to the occasion. "We do not 
think the language of Dogberry natural, when he tells 
neighbour Seacole that "to write and read comes by 
nature." That is ludicrous. Nor is the language of 
Hamlet natural when he shows to his mother the portrait 
of his father ; 

See what a grace was seated on this brow 5 
Hyperion's curls j the front of Jove himself; 
An eye like Mars, to threaten and command. 



CHAP, ix.] THACKEEATS STYLE AND WOEK. 185 

That is sublime. Constance is natural when she turns 
away from the Cardinal, declaring that 

He talks to me that never had a son. 

In one respect both the sublime and ludicrous are 
easier than the realistic. They are not required to be 
true* A man with an imagination and culture may 
feign either of them without knowing the ways of men. 
To be realistic you must know accurately that which you 
describe. How often do we find in novels that the 
author makes an attempt at realism and falls into a 
bathos of absurdity, because he cannot use appropriate 
language 2 " No human being ever spoke like that," we 
say to ourselves, while we should not question the 
.naturalness of the production, either in the grand or 
the ridiculous. 

And yet in very truth the realistic must not be true, 
but just so far removed from truth as to suit the 
erroneous idea of truth which the reader may be supposed 
to entertain. For were a novelist to narrate a conversation 
between two persons of fair but not high education, and 
to use the ill-arranged words and fragments of speech which 
are really common in such conversations, he would seem 
to have sunk to the ludicrous, and to be attributing to 
the interlocutors a mode of language much beneath them. 
Though in fact true, it would seem to be far from natural. 
But on the other hand, were he to put words grammatically 
correct into the mouths of his personages, and to round 
off and to complete the spoken sentences, the ordinary 
reader would instantly feel such a style to be stilted and 
unreal. This reader would not analyse it, but would in 
some CJ.TTTI but sufficiently critical manner be aware that 
his author was riot providing, him with a naturally spoken 



186 THACKERAY. . . [CHAP. 

dialogue. To produce the desired effect the narrator 
must go between the two. He must mount somewhat 
above the ordinary conversational powers of such persons 
as are to be represented, lest he disgust. But he must 
by no means soar into correct phraseology, lest he offend. 
The realistic, by which we mean that which shall seem 
to be real, lies between the two, and in reaching it the 
writer has not only to keep his proper distance on both 
sides, but has to maintain varying distances in accord- 
. ance with the position, mode of life, and education of the 
-speakers. Lady Castlewood in Esmond would not 
have been properly made to speak with absolute pre- 
cision ; but she goes nearer to the mark than her more 
ignorant lord, the viscount ; less near, however, than her 
better-educated kinsman, Henry Esmond. He, however, 
is not made to speak altogether by the card, or he 
would be unnatural. Nor would each of them speak 
always in the same strain, but they would alter their 
language according to their companion, according even 
to the hour of the day. All this the reader unconsciously 
perceives, and will not think the language to be natural 
unless the proper variations be there. 

In simple narrative the rule is the same as in dialogue, 
though it does not admit of the same palpable deviation 
from correct construction. The story of any incident, to 
be realistic, will admit neither of sesquipedalian grandeur 
nor of grotesque images. The one gives an idea of 
romance and the other of burlesque, to neither of which 
is truth supposed to appertain. We desire to soar 
frequently, and then we try romance. We desire to 
recreate ourselves with the easy and droll. Dulce est 
desipere in loco. Then we have recourse to burlesque. 
But in neither do we expect .human mature. 



ix.] THACKERAY'S STYLE AOT) MANNEB OF WOEK. 187 

- I cannot but think that in the hands of the novelist 
the middle course is the most powerful. Much as we 
may delight in burlesque, we cannot claim for it the 
power of achieving great results. So much I think will 
be granted. For the sublime we look rather to poetry 
than to prose, and though I will give one or two instances 
just 'now in which it has been used with great effect in 
prose fiction, it does not come home to the heart, teaching 
'a lesson, as does the realistic. The girl who reads is 
' touched by Lucy Ashton, but she feels herself to be con- 
vinced of the facts as to Jeanie Deans, and asks herself 
whether she might not emulate them. 

Now as to the realism of Thackeray, I must rather 
appeal to my readers than attempt to prove it by quota- 
tion. "Whoever it is that speaks in his pages, does it not 
seem that such a person would certainly have used such 
words on such an occasion 1 If there be need of exami- 
nation to learn whether it be so or not, let the reader 
study all that falls from the mouth of Lady Castlewood 
through the, novel called Esmond, or all that falls from 
the mouth of Beatrix. They are persons peculiarly situ- 
ated, noble women, but who have still lived much out 
of the world. The former is always conscious of a 
'sorrow ; the latter is always striving after an effect ; and 
both on this account are difficult of management. A 
period for the story has been chosen which is strange and 
unknown to us, and which has required a peculiar lan- 
guage. One would have said beforehand that whatever 
might be the charms of the book, it would not be natural 
And yet the ear is never wounded by a tone that is false. 
It is .not always the case that in novel reading the ear 
should be wounded -because the words spoken are un- 
natural Bulwer does: not wound, -though he never puts 



188 THACKERAY. [CHAP 

into tlxe mouth of any of his persons words such as 
would have been spoken. They are not expected from 
him. It is something else that he provides. From 
Thackeray they are expected, and from many others. 
But Thackeray never disappoints. Whether it "be a great 
duke, such as he who was to have married Beatrix, or a 
mean chaplain, such as Tusher, or Captain Steele the 
humorist, they talk, not as they would have talked 
probably, of which I am no judge, but as we feel that 
they might have talked. We find ourselves willing to 
take it as proved because it is there, which is the strongest 
possible evidence of the realistic capacity of the writer. 

As to the sublime in novels, it is not to be supposed 
that any very high rank of sublimity is required to put 
such works within the pale of that definition, I allude 
to those in which an attempt is made to soar above the 
ordinary actions and ordinary language cf life. We may 
take as an instance The Mysteries of Udolpho. That is 
intended to be sublime throughout. Even the writer 
never for a moment thought of descending to real life. 
She must have been untrue to her own idea of her own 
business had she done so. It is all stilted, all of a 
certain altitude among the clouds. It has been in its 
time a popular book, and has had its world of readers. 
Those readers no doubt preferred the diluted romance of 
Mrs. Eadcliff to the condensed realism of Fielding. At 
any rate they did not look for realism. Pelham may be 
taken as another instance of the sublime, though there is 
so much in it that is of the world worldly, though an 
, intentional fall to the ludicrous is often made in it. The 
personages talk in glittering dialogues, throwing about 
philosophy, science, and the classics, in a manner whic.h 
is always suggestive and often amusing. The. book is 



ix.] TfiACKEKATS STYLE AND MANNER OF WOBK. 189 

brilliant with intellect. But no word is ever spoken as it 
would have been spoken ; no detail is ever narrated as 
it would have occurred. Bulwer no doubt regarded 
novels as romantic, and would have looked with contempt 
on any junction of realism and romance, though, in 
varying his work, he did not think it beneath him to vary 
his sublimity with the ludicrous. The sublime in novels 
is no doubt most effective when it breaks out, as though 
by some burst of nature, in the midst of a story true to 
life. " If," said Evan -Maccombich, " the Saxon gentle- 
men are laughing because a poor man such as me thinks 
my life, or the life of six of my degree, is worth that of 
Yich Ian Yohr, it's like enough they may be very right ; 
but if they laugh because they think I would not keep 
my word and come back to redeem him, I can tell them 
they ken neither the heart of a Hielandman nor the 
honour of a gentleman." That is sublime. And, again, 
when Balfour of Burley. slaughters Both well, the death 
scene is sublime. " Die, bloodthirsty dog 1 " said 
Burley. " Die as thou hast lived ! Die like the beasts 

that perish hoping nothing, believing nothing!" 

"And fearing nothing," said BothweD. Horrible as is 
the picture, it is sublime. As is also that speech of Meg 
Merrilies, as she addresses Mr. Bertram, standing on the 
bank. "Ride your ways," said the gipsy; "ride your 
ways, Laird of Ellangowan; ride your ways, Godfrey 
Bertram. This day have ye quenched seven smoking 
hearths ; see if the fire in your ain parlour burn the 
blyther for that. Ye have riven the thack off seven cottar 
houses; look if your ain roof tree stand the faster. Ye 
may stable your stirks in the shealings at Derncleugh; 
see that the hare does not couch on the hearthstane at 
EUangowan," That is romance, and reaches the very 



1T9CT , THACKERAY. [CHAP. 

height of the sublime. That does not offend, impossible 
though it be that any old woman should have spoken 
such words, because it does in truth lift the reader up 
among the bright stars. It is thus that the sublime may 
be mingled with the realistic, if the writer has the power. 
Thackeray also rises in that way to a high pitch, though 
not in many instances, Romance does not often justify 
to him an absence of truth. The scene between Lady 
Castlewood and the Duke of Hamilton is one, when she 
explains to her child's suitor who Henry Esmond is. 
"My daughter may receive presents from the head of 
our house," says the lady, speaking up for her kinsman. 
"My daughter may thankfully take kindness from her 
father's, her mother's, her brother's dearest friend." The 
whole scene is of the same nature, and is evidence of 
Thackeray's capacity for the sublime. And again, when 
the same lady welcomes the same kinsman on his return 
from the wars, she rises as high. But as I have already 
quoted a part of the passage in the chapter on this novel, 
I will not repeat it here. 

It may perhaps be said of the sublime in novels, which 
I have endeavoured to describe as not being generally of 
a high order, that it is apt to become cold, stilted, and , 
unsatisfactory. "What maybe done by impossible castles 
among impossible mountains, peopled by impossible 
heroes and heroines, and fraught with impossible horrors, 
TJie Mysteries of Udolpho have shown us. But they re- 
quire a patient reader, and one who can content himself' 
with a long protracted and most unemotional excitement. 
The sublimity which is effected by sparkling speeches is 
better, if the speeches really have something in them 
beneath the sparkles. Those .of Bulwer generally haye. 
TJios'e of his- imitators are often without anything, the 



ix.] THACKERAY'S STYLE AND MANNER OF WORK. 191 

sparkles even hardly sparkling. At the "best they fatigue ; 
and a novel, if it fatigues, is unpardonable. Its only 
excuse is to be found in the amusement it affords. It 
should instruct also, no doubt, but it never will do so 
unless it hides its instruction and amuses. Scott under- 
stood all this, when he allowed himself only such sudden 
bursts as I have described. Even in The Bride of 
Lammermoor, which I do not regard as among the best of 
his performances, as he soars high into the sublime, so 
does he descend low into the ludicrous. 

In this latter division of pure fiction, the burlesque, as 
it is commonly called, or the ludicrous, Thackeray is 
quite as much at home as in the realistic, though, the 
vehicle being less powerful, he has achieved smaller results 
by it. Manifest as are the objects in his view when he 
wrote Ttie Hoggarty Diamond or The Legend of the 
Rhine, they were less important and less evidently effected 
than those attempted by Vanity Fair and Pendennis. 
Captain Shindy, the Snob, does not tell us so plainly 
what is not a gentleman as does Colonel !Newcome what 
is. Nevertheless the ludicrous has, with Thackeray, been 
very powerful, and very delightful. 

In trying to describe what is done by literature of this 
class, it is especially necessary to remember that different 
readers are affected in a different way. That which is one 
man's meat is another man's poison. In the sublime, 
when the really grand has been reached, it is the reader's 
own fault if he be not touched. "We know that many 
are indifferent to the soliloquies of Hamlet, but we do 
not hesitate to declare to ourselves that they are so 
because they lack the power of appreciating grand lan- 
guage. > We do not , scruple to attribute to those who are 
^different some inferiority of intelligence. And in regard 



192 THACKERAY. [CHAP. 

to the realistic, when the truth of a well-told story or 
life-like character does not come home, we think that 
then, .too, there is deficiency in the critical ability. But 
there is nothing necessarily lacking to a man "because he , 
does not enjoy Ttie Heathen Chinee or TJie Biglow Papers 
and the man to whom these delights of American humour 
are leather and prunello may be of all the most enraptured 
by the wit of Sam Weller or the mock piety of Pecksniff. 
It is a matter of taste and not of intellect, as one man 
likes caviare after his dinner, while another prefers apple- 
pie; and the man himself cannot, or, as far as we can 
see, does not direct his own taste in the one matter more 
than in the other. 

Therefore I cannot ask others to share with me the de- 
light which I have in the various and peculiar expressions 
of the ludicrous which are common to Thackeray. Some 
considerable portion of it consists in bad spelling. "We 
may say that Charles James Harrington Fitzroy Yellow- 
plush, or C. FitzJeames De La Pluche, as he is afterwards 
called, would be no thing but for his " orthogwaphy so care- 
fully inaccuwate." As I have before said, Mrs. Malaprop 
had seemed to have reached the height of this humour, 
and iii having done so to have made any repetition un- 
palatable. But Thackeray's studied blundering is alto- 
gether different from that of Sheridan, Mrs. Malaprop 
uses her words in a delightfully wrong sense. Yellow- 
plush would be a very intelligible, if not quite an accurate 
writer, had he not made for himself special forms of 
English words altogether new to the eye. 

" My ma wrapped up my buth in a mistry. I may be 
illygitmit ; I may have been changed at nus ; but I've 
always had genTm'nly tastes through life, and have no 
doubt that I come of a genTm'nly origum." We cannot 



ix.] THACKERAY'S STYLE AND MANNER OF WORK. 193 

admit that there is wit, or even humour, in bad spelling 
alone. "Were it not that Yellowplush, with his bad 
spelling, had so much to say for himself, there would be 
nothing in it ; but there is always a sting of satire directed 
against some real vice, or some growing vulgarity, which 
is made sharper by the absurdity of the language. In 
The Diary of George IV. there are the following reflections 
on a certain correspondence " Wooden you phansy, now, 
that the author of such a letter, instead of writun about 
pipple of tip-top quality, was describin' Vinegar Yard? 
Would you beleave that the lady he was a-ritin' to was a 
chased modist lady of honour and mother of a family ? 
trumpery ! o morris ! as Homer says. This is a higeous 
pictur of manners, such as I weap to think of, as every 
morl man must weap." We do not wonder that when he , 
makes his " ajew " he should have been called up to be 
congratulated on the score of his literary performances 
by his master, before the Duke, and Lord Bagwig, and 
Dr. Larner, and "Sawedwadgeorgeearllittnbulwig." All 
that Yellowplush says or writes are among the pearls 
which Thackeray was continually scattering abroad 

But this of the distinguished footman was only one 
of the forms of the ludicrous which he was accustomed to 
use in the furtherance of some purpose which he had at 
heart. It was his practice to clothe things most revolting 
with an assumed grace and dignity, and to add to the 
weight of his condemnation by the astounding mendacity 
of the parody thus drawn. There was a grim humour in 
this which has been displeasing to some, as seeming to 
hold out to vice a hand which has appeared for too long 
a time to be friendly. As we are disposed to be not 
altogether sympathetic with- a detective policeman who 
shall have spent a jolly night with a delinquent, for the 

o 



194 THACKEEAY. [CHAP. 

sake of tracing home the suspected guilt to his late comrade, 
so are some disposed to "be almost angry with our author, 
who seems to be too much at home with his rascals, and 
to live with them on familiar terms till we doubt whether 
he does not forget their rascality. Barry Lyndon is the 
strongest example we have of this style of the ludicrous, 
and the critics of whom I speak have thought that our 
friendly relations with Barry have been too genial, too 
apparently genuine, so that it might almost be doubtful 
whether during the narrative we might not, at this ot 
the other crisis, be rather with him than against him. 
"After all," the reader might say, on coming to that 
passage in which Barry defends his trade as a gambler, 
a passage which I have quoted in speaking of the novel, 
." after all, this man is more hero than scoundrel ;" so well 
is the burlesque humour maintained, so well does the 
scoundrel hide his own villany. I can easily understand 
that to some it should seem too long drawn out. To me 
it seems to be the perfection of humour, and of philo- 
sophy. If such a one as Barry Lyndon, a man full of 
intellect, can be made thus to love and cherish his vice, 
and to believe in its beauty, how much more necessary is 
it to avoid the footsteps which lead to it ? But, as I have 
said above, there is no standard by which to judge of the 
excellence of the ludicrous as there is of the sublime, and 
even the realistic. 

No writer ever had a stronger proclivity towards 
parody than Thackeray; and we may, I think, confess 
that there is no form of literary drollery more dangerous. 
The parody will often mar the gem of which it coarsely 
reproduces the outward semblance. The word " damaged, 3 ' 
used instead of " damask," has destroyed to my ear for 



Xt] THACKERAY'S STYLE AND MANNER OF WORK. 195 

ever the music of one of the sweetest -passages in Shakes- 
peare. But it must be acknowledged of Thackeray that, 
fond as he is of this branch of humour, he has done 
little or no injury by his parodies. They run over with 
fun, "but are so contrived that they do not lessen the 
flavour of the original I have given in one of the 
preceding chapters a little set of verses of his own, 
called TJie Willow Tree, and his own parody on his 
own work. There the reader may see how effective a 
parody may be in destroying the sentiment of the piece 
parodied. But in dealing with other authors he has 
been grotesque without being severely critical, and has 
been very like, without making ugly or distasteful that 
which he has imitated. No one who has admired 
Coningsby will admire it the less because of Codlingsby. 
]STor will the undoubted romance of Eugene Aram be 
lessened in the estimation of any reader of novels by the 
well-told career of George de Barnwell. One may say 
that to laugh Ivarihoe out of face, or to lessen the glory 
of that immortal story, would be beyond the power of 
any farcical effect. Thackeray in his, Eowena and 
Eelecca certainly had no such purpose. Nothing of 
Ivanhoe is injured, nothing made less valuable than it 
was before, yet, of all prose parodies in the language, _ 
it is perhaps the most perfect. Every character is main- 
tained, every incident has a taste of Scott. It has the 
twang of Ivanhoe from beginning to end, and yet there is 
not a word in it by which the author of Ivarihoe 
could have been offended But then there is the purpose 
beyond that of the mere parody. Prudish women have 
to be laughed at, and despotic kings, and parasite lords 
and bishops. The ludicrous alone is but poor fun; but 



196 THACKERAY. [CHAP. 

when the ludicrous has a meaning, it can be very effective 
in the hands of such a master as this. 

" He to die ! " resumed the bishop. " He a mortal like to us ! 
Death, was not for him intended, though communis omnibus. 
Keeper, you are irreligious, for to talk and cavil thus ! " 

So much I have said of the manner in which Thackeray 
did his work, endeavouring to represent human nature as 
he saw it, so that his readers should learn to love what 
is good, and to hate what is evil. As to the merits of 
his style, it will be necessary to insist on them the less, 
because it has been generally admitted to be easy, lucid, and 
grammatical. I call that style easy by which the writer 
has succeeded in conveying to the reader that which the 
reader is intended to receive with the least possible amount 
of trouble to him. I call that style lucid which conveys to 
the reader most accurately all that the writer wishes to 
convey on any subject. The two virtues will, I think, 
be seen to be very different. An author may wish to give 
an idea that a certain flavour is bitter. He shall leave a con- 
viction that it is simply disagreeable. Then he is not lucid. 
But he shall convey so much as that, in such a manner 
as to give the reader no trouble in arriving at the conclu- 
sion. Therefore he is easy. The subject here suggested 
is as little complicated as possible ; but in the intercourse 
which is going on continually between writers and readers, 
affairs of all degrees of complication are continually being 
discussed, of a nature so complicated that the inexperi- 
enced writer is puzzled at every turn to express himself, 
and the altogether inartistic writer fails to do so. Who 
among writers has not to acknowledge that he is often 
unable to tell all that he has to tell 1 Words refuse to 
do it for him. He struggles and stumbles and alters and 



ix.] THACKERAY'S STYLE AND MANNER OF WORK. 197 

adds, but finds at last that lie has gone either too far or 
not quite far enough. Then there comes upon him the 
necessity of choosing between two evils. He must 
either give up the fulness of his thought, and content 
himself with presenting some fragment of it in that lucid 
arrangement of words which he affects; or he must 
bring out his thought with ambages ; he must mass his 
sentences inconsequentially; he must struggle up hill almost 
hopelessly with his phrases, so that at the end the reader 
will have to labour as he himself has laboured, or else to 
leave behind much of the fruit which it has been intended 
that he should garner. It is the ill-fortune of some to be 
neither easy or lucid; and there is nothing more wonderful 
in the history of letters than the patience of readers when 
called upon to suffer under the double calamity. It is as 
though a man were reading a dialogue of Plato, under- 
standing neither the subject nor the language. But it is 
often the case that one has to be sacrificed to the other. 
The pregnant writer will sometimes solace himself by 
declaring that it is not his business to supply intelligence 
to the reader; and then, in throwing out the entirety of 
his thought, will not stop to remember that he cannot 
hope to scatter his ideas far and wide unless he can make 
them easily intelligible. Then the writer who is deter- 
mined that his book shall not be put down because it 
is troublesome, is too apt to avoid the knotty bits and 
shirk the rocky turns, because he cannot with ease to 
himself make them easy to others. If this be acknow- 
ledged, I shall be held to be right in saying not only that 
ease and lucidity in style are different virtues, but that 
they are often opposed to each other. They may, how- 
ever, be combined, and then the writer will have really 
learned the art of writing. Omne tulit punctum qui 



198 THACKERAY. [CHAP. 

miscuit ntile dulci. It is to be done, I believe, in all 
languages. A man by art and practice shall at least obtain 
such a masterhood over words as to express all that he 
thinks, in phrases that shall be easily understood. 

In such a small space as can here be allowed, I cannot 
give instances to prove that this has been achieved by 
Thackeray. [Nor would instances prove the existence of 
the virtue, though instances might the absence. The proof 
lies in the work of the man's life, and can only become 
plain to those who have read his writings. I must refer 
readers to their own experiences, and ask them whether 
they have found themselves compelled to study passages in 
Thackeray in order that they might find a recondite mean- 
ing, or whether they have not been sure that they and 
the author have together understood all that there was 
to understand in the matter. Have they run backward 
over the passages, and then gone on, not quite sure 
what the author has meant? If not, then he has been 
easy and lucid. We have not had it so easy with all 
modern writers, nor with all that are old. I may best 
perhaps explain my meaning by taking something written 
long ago ; something very valuable, in order that I may 
not damage my argument by comparing the easiness jf 
Thackeray with the harshness of some author who has in 
other respects failed of obtaining approbation. If you 
take the play of Cymbeline you will, I think, find it to be 
anything but easy reading. Nor is Shakespeare always 
lucid. For purposes of his own he will sometimes force 
his readers to doubt his meaning, even after prolonged 
study. It has ever been so with Hamlet. My readers 
will not, I think, be so crossgrained with me as to suppose 
that I am putting Thackeray as a master of style above 
Shakespeare. I am only endeavouring to explain by 



ix.] THACKERAY'S STYLE AND MANNER OF WO&K. 100 

reference to the great master the condition of literary pro- 
duction which he attained. Whatever Thackeray says, the 
reader cannot fail to understand ; and whatever Thackeray 
attempts to communicate, he succeeds in conveying. 

That he is grammatical I must leave to my readers' 
judgment, with a simple assertion in his favour. There 
are some who say that grammar, fay which I mean accu- 
racy of composition, in accordance with certain acknow- 
ledged rules, is only a means to an end ; and that, if a 
writer can absolutely achieve the end by some other mode 
of his own, he need not regard the prescribed means. If 
a man can so write as to be easily understood, and to 
convey lucidly that which he has to convey without 
accuracy of grammar, why should he subject himself to 
unnecessary trammels ? Why not make a path for him- 
self, if the path so made will certainly lead him whither 
he wishes to go ? The answer is, that no other path will 
lead others whither he wishes to carry them but that 
which is common to him and to those others. It is 
necessary that there should be a ground equally familiar 
to the writer and to his readers. If there be no such 
common ground, they will certainly not come into full 
accord. There have been recusants who, by a certain 
acuteness of their own, have partly done so, wilful recu- 
sants ; but they have been recusants, not to the extent of 
discarding grammar, which no writer could do and not 
be altogether in the dark, but so far as to have created 
for themselves a phraseology which has been picturesque 
by reason of its illicit vagaries ; as a woman will some- 
times please ill-instructed eyes and ears by little departures 
from feminine propriety. They have probably laboured 
in their vocation as sedulously as though they had 
striven to be correct, and have achieved at the best but a 



200 THACKERAY. [CHAP. 

short-lived success ; as is the case also with the uncon- 
ventional female. The charm of the disorderly soon 
loses itself in the ugliness of disorder. And there are 
others rebellious from grammar, who are, however, hardly 
to "be called rebels, because the laws which they break 
have never been altogether known to them. Among 
those very dear to me in English literature, one or two 
might be named of either sort, whose works, though they 
have that in them which will insure to them a long life, 
will become from year to year less valuable and less 
venerable, because their authors have either scorned or 
have not known that common ground of language on 
which the author and his readers should stand together. 
My purport here is only with Thackeray, and I say that 
he stands always on that common ground. He quarrels 
with none of the laws. As the lady who is most attentive 
to conventional propriety may still have her own fashion 
of dress and her own mode of speech, so had Thackeray 
very manifestly his own style ; but it is one the correctness 
of which has never been impugned. 

I hold that gentleman to be the best dressed whose 
dress no one observes. I am not sure but that the same 
may be said of an author's written language. Only, where 
shall we find an example of such perfection *? Always 
easy, always lucid, always correct, we may find them ; but 
who is the writer, easy, lucid, and correct, who has not 
impregnated his writing with something of that personal 
flavour which we call mannerism ? To speak of authors 
well known to all readers Does not The Rambler taste of 
Johnson ; The Decline and Fall) of Gibbon ; The Middle 
Ages, of Hallam ; The History of England) of Macaulay ; 
and The Invasion of the Crimea 9 of Kinglake? Do we 
nob know the elephantine tread of Tlie Saturday, and the 



ix.] THACKERAY'S STYLE AND MANNER OF WORK. 201 

precise toe of The Spectator? I have sometimes thought 
that Swift has been nearest to the mark of any, writing 
English and not writing Swift. But I doubt whether an 
accurate observer would not trace even here the " mark of 
the beast." Thackeray, too, has a strong flavour of 
Thackeray. I am inclined to think that his most besetting 
sin in style, the little earmark by which he is most con- 
spicuous, -is a certain affected familiarity. He indulges 
too frequently in little confidences with individual readers, 
in which pretended allusions to himself are frequent. 
"What would you do 3 what would you say now, if you 
were in such a position?" he asks. He describes this 
practice of his in the preface to Pendennis. " It is a sort 
of confidential talk between writer and reader. . , . In 
the course of his volubility the perpetual speaker must of 
necessity lay bare his own weaknesses, vanities, pecu- 
liarities." In the short contributions to periodicals on 
which he tried his 'prentice hand, such addresses and 
conversations were natural and efficacious ; but in a larger 
work of fiction they cause an absence of that dignity 
to which even a novel may aspire. You feel that each 
morsel as you read it is a detached bit, and that it has 
all been written in detachments. The book is robbed 
of its integrity by a certain good-humoured geniality of 
language, which causes the reader to be almost too much at 
home with his author. There is a saying that familiarity 
breeds contempt, and I have been sometimes inclined to 
think that our author has sometimes failed to stand up 
for himself with sufficiency of " personal deportment" 

In other respects Thackeray's style is excellent. As I 
have said before, the reader always understands his words 
without an effort, and receives all that the author has to 
give. 



202 THACKERAY. [CHA*. 

There now remains to be discussed the matter of our 
author's work. The manner and the style are but the 
natural wrappings in which the goods have been prepared 
for the market. Of these goods it is no doubt true that 
unless the wrappings be in some degree meritorious the 
article will not be accepted at all ; but it is the kernel 
which we seek, which, if it be not of itself sweet and 
digestible, cannot be made serviceable by any .shell how- 
ever pretty or easy to be cracked. I have said previously 
that it is the business of a novel to instruct in morals 
and to amuse. I will go further, and will add, having 
been for many years a most prolific writer of novels 
myself, that I regard him who can put himself into close 
communication with young people year after year without 
making some attempt to do them good, as a very sorry 
fellow indeed. However poor your matter may be, how- 
ever near you may come to that " f oolishest of existing 
mortals," as Carlyle presumes some unfortunate novelist 
to be, still, if there be those who read your works, they 
will undoubtedly be more or less influenced by what they 
find there. And it is because the novelist amuses that 
he is thus influential. The sermon too often has no such 
effect, because it is applied with the declared intention of 
having it. The palpable and overt dose the child rejects ; 
but that which is cunningly insinuated by the aid of jam 
or honey is accepted unconsciously, and goes on upon its 
curative mission. So it is with the novel. It is taken 
because of its jam and honey. But, unlike the honest 
simple jam and honey of the household clipboard, it is 
never unmixed with physic. There will be the dose 
within ft, either curative or poisonous. The girl will 
"be taught modesty or immodesty, truth or falsehood ; the 
lad will be taught honour or dishonour, simplicity or 



ix.] THACKERAY'S STYLE A1STD MANNER OF WORK. 203 

affectation. Without the lesson the amusement will not 
be there. There are novels which certainly can teach 
nothing ; but then neither can they amuse any one. 

I should be said to insist absurdly on the power of 
my own confraternity if I were to declare that the bulk of 
the young people in the upper and middle classes receive 
their moral teaching chiefly from the novels they read. 
Mothers would no doubt think of their own sweet teaching; 
fathers of the examples which they set \ and schoolmasters 
of the excellence of their instructions. Happy is the 
country that has such mothers, fathers, and school- 
masters ! But the novelist creeps in closer than the 
schoolmaster, closer than the father, closer almost than 
the mother. He is the chosen guide, the tutor whom 
the young pupil chooses for herself. She retires with him, 
suspecting no lesson, safe against rebuke, throwing her- 
self head and heart into the narration as she can hardly 
do into her task -work ; and there she is taught, how she 
shall learn to love ; how she shall receive the lover when 
he comes j how far she should advance to meet the joy ; 
why she should be reticent, and not throw herself at once 
into this new delight. It is the same with the young 
man, though he would be more prone even than she to 
reject the suspicion of such tutorship. But he too will 
there learn either to speak the truth, or to lie ; and will 
receive from his novel lessons either of real manliness, 
or of that affected apishness and tailor-begotten demeanour 
which too many professors of the craft give out as their 
dearest precepts. 

At any rate the close intercourse is admitted. Where 
is the house now from which novels are tabooed? Is 
it not common to allow them almost indiscriminately, 
so that young and old each chooses his own novel? 



204, THACKERAY. [CHAP. 

Shall he, then, to whom this close fellowship is allowed, 
this inner confidence, shall he not be careful what 
words he uses, and what thoughts he expresses, when he 
sits in council with his young friend ? This, which it 
will certainly be his duty to consider with so much care, 
will be the matter of his work. "We know what was 
thought of such matter, when Lydia in the play was 
driven to the necessity of flinging "Peregrine Pickle 
under the toilet," and thrusting "Lord Aimwell under 
the sofa." We have got beyond that now, and are 
tolerably sure that our girls do not hide their novels. 
The more freely they are allowed, the more necessary 
is it that he who supplies shall take care that they are 
worthy of the trust that is given to them. 

!Now let the reader ask himself what are the lessons 
which Thackeray has taught. Let him send his memory 
running back over all those characters of whom we have 
just been speaking, and ask himself whether any girl 
has been taught to be immodest, or any man unmanly, 
by what Thackeray has written. A novelist has two 
modes of teaching, by good example or bad. It is not to 
be supposed that because the person treated of be evil, there- 
fore the precept will be evil. If so, some personages with 
whom we have been made well acquainted from our youth 
upwards, would have been omitted in our early lessons. 
It may be a question, whether the teaching is not more 
efficacious which comes from the evil example. What 
story was ever more powerful in showing the beauty of 
feminine reticence, and the horrors of feminine evil-doing, 
than the fate of Erne Deans ? The Templar would have 
betrayed a woman to his lust, but has not encouraged 
others by the freedom of his life. Yarney was utterly 
bad, but though a gay courtier, he has enticed no others 



IX.] THACKERAY'S STYLE AND MANNER OF WORK. 205 
to go the way that he went. So it has been with 
Thackeray. His examples have heen generally of that 
kind, but they have all been efficacious in their teaching 
on the side of modesty and manliness, truth and simplicity. 
When some girl shall have traced from first to last the 
charact^of Beatrix, what, let us ask, will be the result 
on her mind 1 Beatrix was bom noble, clever, beautiful, 
with certain material advantages, which it was within her 
compass to improve by her nobility, wit, and beauty. 
She was quite alive to that fact, and thought of those 
material advantages, to the utter exclusion, in our mind, 
of any idea of moral goodness. She realised it all, and 
told herself that that was the game she would play. 
" Twenty-five ! " says she ; and in eight years no man 
has ever touched my heart 1" That is her boast when she 
is a,bout to be married, her only boast of herself. " A 
most detestable young woman ! " some will say. " An 
awful example! "others will add. Not a doubt of it. She 
proves the misery of her own career so fully that no one 
will follow it. The example is so awful that it will surely 
deter. The girl will declare to herself that not in that 
way will she look for the happiness which she hopes to 
enjoy; and the young man will say as he reads it, that 
no Beatrix shall touch his heart. 

You may go through all his characters with the same 
effect. Pendennis will be scorned because he is light; 
Warrington loved because he is strong and merciful; Dobbin 
will be honoured because he is unselfish; and the old 
colonel, though he be foolish, vain, and weak, almost 
worshipped because he is so true a gentleman. It is in 
the handling of questions such as these that we have to 
look for the matter of the novelist, those moral lessons 
which he mixes up with his jam and his honey. I say 



206 THACKERAY. [CHAP. 

that with Thackeray the physic is always curative and 
never poisonous. He may be admitted safely into that 
close fellowship, and be allowed to accompany the dear 
ones to their retreats. The girl will never become bold 
under his preaching, or taught to throw herself at men's 
heads. Nor will the lad receive a false flashy idea of 
what becomes a youth, when he is first about to take his 
place among men. 

As to that other question, whether Thackeray be 
amusing as well as salutary, I must leave it to public 
opinion. There is now being brought out of his works a 
more splendid edition than has ever been produced in any 
age or any country of the writings of such an author. 
A certain fixed number of copies only is being issued, and 
each copy will cost 33 12s. when completed. It is under- 
stood that a very large proportion of the edition has been 
already bought or ordered. Cost, it will be said, is a bad 
test of excellence. It will not prove the merit of a book 
any more than it will of a horse. But it is proof of the 
popularity of the book. Print and illustrate and bind up 
some novels how you will, no one will buy them. Pre- 
vious to these costly volumes, there have been two entire 
editions of his works since the author's death, one com- 
paratively cheap and the other dear. Before his death 
his stories had been scattered in all imaginable forms. I 
may therefore assert that their charm has been proved by 
their popularity. 

There remains for us only this question, whether the 
nature of Thackeray's works entitle Mm to be called a 
cynic. The word is one which is always used in a bad 
sense. " Of a dog } currish," is the definition which we 
get from Johnson, quite correctly, and in accordance with 
its etymology. And be gives us' examples. " How vilely 



ix.] THACKERAY'S STYLE AND MANNER OF WORK, 207 

does this cynic rhyme/' he takes from Shakespeare ; and 
Addison speaks of a man degenerating into a cynic. That 
Thackeray's nature was soft and kindly, gentle almost to 
a fault, has "been shown elsewhere. But they who have 
called him a cynic have spoken of him merely as a 
writer, and as writer he has certainly taken upon himself 
the special task of "barking at the vices and follies of 
the world around him. Any satirist might in the same 
way be called a cynic in so far as his satire goes. Swift 
was a cynic certainly. Pope was cynical when he was a 
satirist. Juvenal was all cynical, because he was all 
satirist. If that be what is meant, Thackeray was cer- 
tainly a cynic. But that is not all that" the word implies. 
It intends to go back beyond the work of the man, and to 
describe his heart. It says of any satirist so described 
that he has given himself up to satire, not because things 
have been evil, but because he himself has been evil. 
Hamlet is a satirist, whereas Thersites is a cynic. If 
Thackeray be judged after this fashion, the word is as 
inappropriate to the writer as to the man. 

But it has to be confessed that Thackeray did allow 
his" intellect to be too thoroughly saturated with the 
aspect of the ill side of things. We can trace the opera- 
tion of his mind from his earliest days, when he com- 
menced his parodies at school; when he brought out The 
Snob at Cambridge, when he sent Tellowplush out upon 
the world as a satirist on the doings of gentlemen 
generally ; when he wrote his Catherine) to show the 
vileness of the taste for what he would have called 
Newgate literature; and TJie Hoggarty Diamond, to 
attack bubble companies ; and Barry Lyndon, to expose 
the pride which a rascal may take in his rascality. 
Becky Sharp, Majo.y Pende^nis, Beatrix, both as, % 



208 THACKERAY. [CHAP. 

young and as an old woman, were written with the same 
purpose. There is a touch of satire in every drawing that 
he made. A jeer is needed for something that is ridi- 
culous, scorn has to be thrown on something that is vile. 
The same feeling is to be found in every line of eveiy 
ballad. 

VANITAS 7ANITATUM, 

Methinks the text is never stale, 

And life is every day renewing 
Fresh comments on the old old tale, 

Of Folly, Fortune, Glory, Ruin. 

Hark to the preacher, preaching still ! 

He lifts his voice and cries his sermon, 
Here at St. Peter's of Oornhill, 

As yonder on the Mount of Hermon 

For you and me to heart to take 

( dear beloved brother readers), 
To-day ,-*aa when the good king spake 

Beneath the solemn Syrian cedars. 

It was just so with him always. He was " crying his 
sermon," hoping, if it might be so, to do something towards 
lessening the evils he saw around him, "We all preach 
our sermon, but not always with the same earnestness. 
He had become so urgent in the cause, so loud in his 
denunciations, that he did not stop often to speak of the 
good things around him. Now and again he paused and 
blessed amid the torrent of his anathemas. There are 
Dobbin, and Esmond, and Colonel Newcome. But his 
anathemas are the loudest. It has been so I think nearly 
always with the eloquent preachers. 

1 will insert here, especially here at the end of this 



rx.] THACKEKAY'S STYLE AND MANNER OF WOBZ. 209 

chapter, in which I have spoken of Thackeray's matter 
and manner of writing, because of the justice of the 
criticism conveyed, the lines which Lord Houghton wrote 
on his death, and which are to be found in the February 
number of The CornUll of 1864. It was the first 
number printed after his death. I would add that, 
though no Dean applied for permission to bury Thackeray 
in Westminster Abbey, his bust was placed there without 
delay. What is needed by the nation in such a case 
is simply a lasting memorial there, where such memorials 
are most often seen and most highly honoured. But 
we can all of us sympathise with the feeling of the 
poet, writing immediately on the loss of such a friend : 

When one, whose nervous English verse 

Public and party hates defied, 
Who bore and bandied many a curse 

Of angry times, when Dryden died, 

Our royal abbey's Bishop-Dean 

Waited for no suggestive prayer, 
But, ere one day closed o'er the scene, 

Craved, as a boon, to lay him there. 

The wayward faith, the faulty life, 

Vanished before a nation's pain. 
Panther and Hind forgot their strife, 

And rival statesmen thronged the fane. 

gentle censor of our age ! 

Prime master of our ampler tongue ! 
Whose word of wit and generous page 

Were never wrath, except with wrong, 



210 THACKERAY. [CHAP. ix. 

Fielding without the manner's dross, 
Scott with a spirit's larger room, 

What Prelate deems thy grave his loss ? 
"What Halifax erects thy tomb ? 

Eut, may be, he, who so could draw 
The hidden great, the humble wise, 

Yielding with them to God's good law, 
Makes the Pantheon where he lies. 



INDEX 



INDEX 



Addison, 125, 157, 163, 164 
Ainsworth, Harrison, 65, 73 
Austen, Jane, 90 



B 

Ballads, 23, 25, 32, 168183 ; 

the charm of Thackeray's 

verse, 169 
Ballade of Policeman X , 22. 

169 
Barry Lyndon, 17, 18, 25, 

7076, 124, 207 ; tirade on 

gambling, 73 75 
Beoher, Anne, see Carmichael 

Smyth, Mrs. 
Boehm, Mr., 58 
Bonnington, the Artist, 7 
Bouillabaisse, 180183 
Bow Street Ballads, 169 
Box of Novels "by Titmarsh, 76 
Brooks, Shirley, 22 
Bulwer Lytton, 64, 65, 73, 78, 

90, 193, 195 
Burlesques, 139 153 ; Major 

Gahagan, 139 153 ; Legend 

of the Mine, 140143 ; 

Rebecca and Rowena, 

139, 144153, 195 



Cane-lottomed Chair, The, 

179, 180 

Cardwell, Mr. 48 
Carmichael Smyth, Major, 4 
Carmichael Smyth, Mrs. 

(Thackeray's mother), 3, 4 
Catherine, 25, 42, 65, 66, 67, 

72,207 



Charter House, the, 4, 15, 70, 

120 

Chronicle of the Drum, 175, 176 
Clanricarde,Lord, 34 
Clarendon, Lord, 36 
Congreve, 157, 162, 163 
Constitutional, The, 8, 14, 50 
Cooper, Fenimore, 78, 79 
Cornhill Magazine, The. 

5057, 135, 209 
Cornhill to Cairo, Journey from, 

21, 25, 28 
Cox's Diary, 139 
Crowe, Amy, 41 
Cruifahank, Genius of, 43 
Crystal Palace, The, 171, 172 

D 

Damages Two Hundred 

Pounds, 169, 170 
Denis Duval, 56, 57 
Dennis Hoggarty's Wife, 70 
Dickens, Charles, 8, 1720, 

26, 27, 43, 62, 65, 91 
Dojde, Richard, 41, 147 
Durham, Mr. (sculptor), 38 

E 

Edgeworth, Maria, 90 
End of the Play, The, 168 
English Humorists of the 
Eighteenth Century, 154, 157 
167 

Esmond, 16, 38, 45, 49, 57, 
122 135 ; a consecutive 
whole, 124 ; style and 
language, 124126 ; a tour 
deforce, 126 ; date of story, 
126, 127 ; the characters, Bs- 
mond,128 130; Lady Castle- 
wood, 130132; Beatrix, 



214 



THACKERAY. 



132 135; melancholy tone, 
135 ; characteristic of 
Thackeray, 136, 137, 186, 
190 

Examiner, The, 37 



Jacob Omnium 9 s Hoss, 168, 

169, 171 
Juvenal, 207 



Fielding, 108, 123, 127, 133, 

157, 159, 166 

Fitz-loodle Papers, 67-69 
Fitzgerald, Edward, 30, 31 
Forster, John, 43 
Four Georges, The, 4648, 

154156 
Framley Parsonage (Trol- 

lope's), 5153 
Eraser's Magazine, 14, 21, 22, 

29, 6276 

G 



King Canute, 168 

L 

Lardner, Dr. Dionysius. 64. 

193 

Leech, John, 21, 22, 41, 42 
Legend of the Rhine, 139, 140 

143 

Lever, Charles, 25, 53, 78, 90 
Little Travels and Roadside 

Sketches, 76 



Gahagan, Tremendous Ad- 
ventures of Major, 139, 140 Lovel the Widower, 9, 52, 53, 
Garrick Club, The, 10 note, H6 



27,58 

Gay, 157, 160, 166 
"olds 



M 



Goldsmith, 157, 159, 160, 166, 

167 Macready, 10 note, 27 

Gownsman, The, 6 Maginn, Dr. (Oliver Yorke), 

Great Hoggarty Diamond, 14, 62 
The, 14, 15, 25, 66, 191, 207 Marochetti's bust of Thack- 

" eray, 58 

Marryat, Captain, 91 
Maxwell, Sir W., 31 
Men's Wives, 69, 70 



Grey Friars, 5, 70, 120 

H 

Hayes, Catherine, 18, 33, 65 



Hayward, Abraham, 29 note 
Higgins, Matthew, see 
Omnium, Jacob 



Account Oj 
173," 174 



Ball, 



History of the next French Mrs Frank Zerry^ 

n.. y j ,- J * n -, Mysteries of Udolpho (Rad- 



Revolution, 76, 139 
Hogarth, 28, 30, 31, 127, 157, 

Houghton, Lord, 209 



Irish dialect, in Thackeray, 
174,175 *' 

Irish Sketch Boole, 25, 28, 33 



cliff), 188, 190 

N 

National Standard, 8, 9, 116 

Neate, Charles, 48 

Newcomes, The, 38, 41, 46, 
114-121; full of satire, 
115117 ; touches of pathos, 



INDEX, 



117, 121 ; Clive Newcome, 

118, 119 ; two tragedies, 121 
129 

New Monthly Magazine, 21 
Novel, functions of the, 92 
94, 109, 110, 184; the sub- 
lime in novels, 188190; 
the ludicrous, 191194 
Novels by Eminent Hands. 70, 
79, 139, 195 



Omnium, Jacob, 31, 53 
Oxford, 48 



Paris Sketch Book, 21 
Peg of Limavaddy, 178, 179 
Pendennis, 38, 108114 ; a 
natural young man, 108 
110 ; Thackeray's digres- 
sions, 111 ; the purport of 
the story, 112, 113, 191 ' 
Philip, Adventures of, 56, 57 
Pope, 157, 161, 166, 207 
Prior, 157, 165, 166 ' 
Prout, Father, 53 
Punch, 21, 22, 24, 29, 41, 59, 
74-89, 169, 172 

Q 

Quarterly Review, 41 

E 

Ravenswing, Mr,, 70 

Rebecca and Rowena, 139, 144 

153, 195 

Reed, Mr., 36, 39, 40, 58 
Rejected Addresses (Smith), 79 
Richmond-Ritchie, Mrs., 20, 53 
Roundabout Papers, 53, 54 
Russell, Dr., 4 



Scott, Sir W., 90, 119, 123 
125,133,145,153,191,195,204 

Seingalt, 74 



pliably Genteel Story, 66 

Shawe, Col. Matthew, 20 

Shawe, Miss, see Mrs. Thack- 
eray 

Skelton, John, 62, 63 

Slaughter House, 5, 70 

Smollett, 157, 166 

Snob, The, 57, 207 

Snob Papers, the, 22, 29, 42, 
7989; Thackeray's mor- 
bid horror of snobs, 6, 80 
82 ; too many of the papers, 
82, 83 ; clerical snobs, S3, 
84 ; Raleigh a snob, 85, 86 ; 
Thackeray carried beyond 
the truth, 86, 87 ; excellence 
of each individual picture, 
88,89 

Steele, 125, 157, 160, 164, 165 

Stephen, Leslie, 20 

Sterne, 157, 166, 167 

Stirling, William, see Max- 
well, Sir W. 

Sturgis, Russell, 31 

Swift, 125, 157, 158, 162 



Taylor, Tom, 59 
Tennyson, 5, 23, 27, 53 
Thackeray, Anne, see Rich- 
mond-Ritchie, Mrs. 
Thackeray, Edward (cousin),41 
Thackeray, Harriet (daugh- 
ter), 20 

Thackeray, Rev. Elias, 3 
Thackeray, Richmond (father), 

3 
Thackeray, W* M., of Hadley 

(grandfather), 3 
THACKERAY, W. M. 
no biography of him, 1, 
2 ; birth, 3 ; parentage, 
3, 4 ; school-days, 4, 5 ; 
university career, 5 7 ; 
studies art at Paris, 7 ; 
his drawings and illus- 
trations, 7, 8, 30, 31, 
81 ; newspaper specula- 



216 



THACKERAY* 



THACKEKAY, W. M. (cont.) 
tions, 810, 116; takes 
up literature as a pro- 
fession, 10 ; sensitiveness 
to criticism, 16 ; means, 
8, 9, 33, 56 ; pseudonyms, 
14, 25, 28, 30, 42, 66, 67, 
69, 70 ; connection with 
Fraaer's Magazine, 14, 21, 
22, 29, 6276; idleness, 
7, 15, 19, 137 ; character, 
19, 59 61 ; generosity, 
60 ; marriage, 20, 21 ; 
connection -with Punch, 
21, 22 3 24, 29, 41, 7489, 
169, 172; publication of his 
works in numbers, 26, 27, 
38; his friends, 27, 31; 
conversational powers, 31, 
32 ; residences in London, 
33 ; candidate for Post 
Office appointment, 34 

36, 44 ; for post at Wash- 
ington, 36; his views on the 
just rewards of literature, 

37, 38 ; ill-health, 39, 40, 
50, 58 ; appearance, 39, 
49, 50, 58 ; the skeleton in 
his cupboard, 40; career as 
lecturer, 4348, 154 ; his 
lectures, 154 167 ; jour- 
neys to America, 45, 46; 
stands for Oxford, 48, 49 ; 
becomes editor of Corn- 
hill, 5057 ; his house at 
Palace Green, 56 ; col- 
lateral work in connection 
with his novels, 57 ; 
death, 57 

As a writer 
His realism, 184, 186, 187, 
188 ; style, 124126, 196 
201; easy, 196, 197; 
lucid, 197199 ; gram- 
matical, 199, 200; man- 
nerisms, 200, 201; his 
morbid horror of snobs, 



THACKERAY, W. M. (cont.) 
80 82; so-called cynicism, 
59, 60, 206208; Irish 
dialect in his works, 174, 
175; Dickens and Thack- 
eray contrasted, 17 20, 
26, 45, 46 ; digressions, 
111 

Thorns in the Cushion, 54 55 

Timbuctoo, 57, 23 

Times, The, 14, 172 

Titmarsh in the Picture Gal- 
leries, 76 

Titmarsh, Michael Angelo, 14 
15, 21, 25, 28, 66 

Titmarsh, Samuel, 15 

Trarels in London, 78 

Trollope, Anthony, 51, 52, 55, 
56 



Vanitas Vanitatum, 168, 208 

Vanity Fair, 7, 21, 25, 27, 39, 

90107, 109, 113, 122; 

faults attributed to it, 

9095; Sir Pitt Crawley, 

96, 97; the double story, 

Becky Sharp and Rawdon 

Crawley, 78104; Amelia 

and her two lovers, 104 107 

Venables, George, 4, 5, 31, 70 

Virginians, The, 49, 112, 127, 

137, 138 

W 

Wanderings of our Fat Contri- 
butor, 76 

White Squall, The, 40,176178 
Willow Tree, The, 6769, 195 
Winchelsea, 57 



Yellowplush in PimcM2, 77,78 
Yellowplush Papers, The, 17, 
6265, 192, 193, 207 



E. CLAY AND SONS, LTD., BREAD ST. HILL, E,C., AND BUNQAY, SUFFOLK. 



is 



1 03 693